On one level it wasn’t an unusual scene: Nicholas Payton and James Carter carving up rhythm changes on trumpet and tenor saxophone, respectively. Beside them: the indubitable bassist Christian McBride and the irrepressible drummer Roy Haynes. Boppish head, medium-bright clip. Snap, crackle. Crescendo. Applause.
But this wasn’t a marquee booking at Birdland, or an all-star festival special. The musicians were at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, appearing by invitation at the seventh annual Jammy Awards. Their liaison, Page McConnell, formerly of the jam-band Phish, was at the piano and technically at the helm. For many of the several thousand fans gathered in the name of the Jam, the tune was familiar as “Magilla,” a McConnell composition from A Picture of Nectar, Phish’s 1992 major-label debut.