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A trio of `slush pumps' on a fine romp

March 02, 2007|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Three trombones as the front-line instruments in a jazz sextet might seem to be a pair too many for some listeners.

But there they were Wednesday night at the Jazz Bakery -- the veteran trombonists Slide Hampton and Steve Turre, with young up-and-comer Andrae Murchison -- brashly romping through a steaming collection of hard-swinging jazz numbers.

Following in, and expanding on, the pioneering pathway established in the '50s and '60s by the trombone team of J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding, the trio made a convincing case for the versatility and the sheer entertainment qualities of their chosen instrument.

They did so despite a fairly strong similarity in styles. Hampton, a prominent player since the '50s, was masterful, slipping across fast-paced, chromatic passages with seemingly effortless flow and articulation. Murchison, little more than two years out of college, played a series of solos revealing that he has learned his bebop lessons well while discovering an expressive voice of his own.

Turre, well known for his astonishing improvisations on conch shells, stuck with the trombone for this set. And the results were extraordinary. His rendering of "In a Sentimental Mood" was the highlight of the set. Using a straight mute and a plunger to produce the vocalized sounds pioneered in the late '20s by "Tricky Sam" Nanton with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Turre reimagined the tune, finding its inner lyricism, invoking its dark sense of swing.

The trombone trio was ably backed by a trio of first-rate Southland players -- pianist Nate Morgan, bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Fritz Wise -- in a program of mostly up-tempo numbers highlighted by a supercharged rendering of Miles Davis' "So What."

As the set closed, one couldn't help but marvel that this impressive collection of music had just been served up on an instrument originally known as the sackbut and often referred to, whimsically, by contemporary players as the "slush pump."

Shakespeare sure had it right: "A rose by any other name..."


Trombone Summit

Where: Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Blvd., Culver City

When: 8 and 9:30 tonight through Sunday

Price: $35

Contact: (310) 271-9039

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