Jeff Chan: Horns of Plenty

On “Up Above,” the first track on Jeff Chan’s latest release, Horns of Plenty, that old jazz theory about the silence between the notes being most important is on display. This is because Chan, the Bay area based saxophonist, and bass clarinetist, uses the quiet (dissonance) just like the masters. For awhile, it is just Chan and bassist, Tatsu Acki with an electrifying call and response that suggests street corners in cities where panhandling musicians blow for dollars. It is not sad music but it is emotional, and full of a message. Chan says it is for “that entity that is larger than all of us.”

Eventually, others (Jimmy Ellis on alto, Edward Wilkerson, Jr., on tenor) join in the mini-festival tune and the song is full, and alive, and the spaces are full of sound, and purpose. “Up Above” is a special tune; it sets the tone for “Horns of Plenty” because most of the music on the release (Chan’s third as a leader) here is similar: it builds slowly, it is quiet, and well produced, and the musicians appear to always be on the same page. Free jazz lovers will adore this music but traditional junkies will gobble it too because it is unique (no drums, or piano).

“Waiting,” another Chan composition is according to the CD notes, a revisit to a “previous theme about the Chinese Immigration Experience on Angel Island.” This lengthy composition has more layers and changes than “Up Above,” but the weaving is easy to follow.

Quiet spaces rule again on “Song for Ava,” an original for Chan’s niece, as Chan and bassist, Tatsu Acki deliver a soft, and elegant tribute, to a young person, who the listener knows must be special judging by the care with which Chan guides this one home. Chan is clearly a major and emerging talent in the jazz world, perhaps overlooked, but for those who are listening, a voice to be reckoned with as jazz continues to seek new spaces of creativity.