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SFJazz Collective: Live 2009

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While there is no disputing the hegemony of New York City as jazz’s artistic epicenter, some of the music’s stronger enabling forces have bases far away from Gotham. Take, for instance, the examples put forth on two of the finer jazz albums this year, the Monterey Quartet’s Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival and the SFJAZZ Collective’s Live 2009, both with direct links to historically strong West Coast jazz festivals, the Monterey Jazz Festival and the San Francisco Jazz Festival, respectively.

Each season, the SFJazz ensemble pays homage to one legendary player-composer. Last year’s model was Wayne Shorter; this season, McCoy Tyner. Fittingly, the Tyner tribute project kicks off with the Rosnes-arranged and -featured chart of the pianist’s “Fly With the Wind,” followed by the kinetic waltz “Three Flowers.” Other Tyner compositions personalized for the band include “Peresina,” the vigorous Zenón-arranged “Four by Five,” “Consensus” and the extended piece “Indo-Serenade/Parody.”

This band cuts gamely across party lines of style and subgenre. On this occasion, Tyner’s influence as clustering modal man and tender balladeer seem to filter into the mix of original tunes, as well. Douglas’ lyrical ballad “Sycamore” is followed by Lovano’s feverish and cathartically loose-limbed “Jazz Free,” and Rosnes’ lushly scored and eloquently emotive “Migration” contrasts with Harland’s Indian-inspired rhythmic maze “E-Collective.”

One of the timelier and topical new pieces is Robin Eubanks’ suitelike Obama ode, “Yes We Can-Victory Dance,” which flaunts the trombonist’s skill in metric adventurism. Closing the album with a second, winking take on the same celebratory theme is Matt Penman’s surging invention “Yup, We Did.” The meaning is double, covering Obama’s move to the White House and the satisfying closure of another fine project for this thrilling group.

Originally Published