Sunday, November 20, 2011

Doxie Moxie at Sunnyside

Music review by Ben Ratlaugh,  AP.  November 6, 2011, Corvallis, OR.

A tangible tingle of titillation tickled the crowd gathered at the Sunnyside Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Corvallis.  All five tables were taken, and the crowd was abuzz with excitement, or was it the double shot mocha lattes?  Sure, some had come for the coffee, but most were there for something else; they were related to band members.  They'd gathered here in this legendary jazz Mecca to get a taste of what they just couldn't seem to get enough of; real, honest, no-holds-barred improvisatory jazz.  Or perhaps a bowl of squash soup.

They didn't have to wait long.  The band ascended the stage, the lights were dimmed, and a hush came over the audience.  "GRANDE CAPPUCCINO!" rang out from behind the counter, and the band was off and running with their singular interpretation of Sonny Rollin's jazz standard, "Doxie."

First out of the gate was saxophonist Fred Berman, whose attempt to drive the piece to 220 BPM only solidified the band's resolve to hold it back to a playable tempo.  Cascades of arpeggios eventually dissolved into a murky obscurity, with the band following close behind.

Boldly tiptoeing into the fray, guitarist John Bliss deftly wavered between emulations of Charlie Christian and Charlie Pride before ceding the floor to Ben Mutschler, who nearly landed on it, having been catapulted from his chair by his ever-bouncing right leg.  Despite the challenge of playing a saxophone while shaking violently, Ben managed to redirect the band to a new, more contemplative plane.

That brief meditation was soon shattered by percussionist Dave Storrs, who, clearly suffering from too much espresso, delivered the mandatory drum solo with aplomb (the drum solo was mandatory, not the plum).

Clearly ridiculing all that had come before, Mike Curtis and Page Hundemer joined forces to drive the piece from the sublime to the ridiculous, with Curtis bleating like a goat from the upper registers of his bass clarinet, and Hundemer responding with belly laughs from his bass guitar.  Just as their duet threatened to derail the entire enterprise, keyboardist Dave Leslie dove in with a courageous, though ultimately hopeless, rescue attempt.

The band made one final effort to pull it all together before surrendering to the inevitable, messy conclusion.  Relieved, the audience responded with appreciative applause, which had the unintended effect of egging the band on. Undeterred by the thinning crowd, 5th & B played on until the last waitress left with instructions to lock the doors behind them.