O me! O my!
I don’t even know where to start writing about the mind-blowing music that came crashing off of the stage at Red Square in Albany on Thursday night while sax master John Ellis and his exquisite band Double-Wide were celebrating the release of their new album, “Puppet Mischief.”
The dazzling instrumental virtuosity of the musicians?
The thrill of Ellis’ complex, ambitious and fully funky compositions?
The extraordinary imagination required to assemble this unlikely combination of instruments?
It was glorious, larger-than-life music, spinning on a New Orleans/New York City axis that frequently soared off into previously uncharted realms of time, space and sound.
Leading the charge, Ellis switched back and forth between tenor sax and bass clarinet, squealing and honking one minute, blowing gorgeously melodic passages the next and then settling in with the unorthodox but oh-so-effective horn section of trombonist Alan Farber and sublime harmonicat Gregoire Maret. That’s right, a harmonica player.
Anchoring the swirling sound was the powerhouse Crescent City rhythm section of tireless sousaphonist Matt Perrine and drummer Jason Marsalis. (Yes, he’s the youngest member of the famed First Family of NOLA, and he just happened to be celebrating his 33rd birthday on Thursday.) Somehow, they kept the Jackson Square second-line strut going full-steam-ahead by playing all around the groove rather than sinking into it.
Keyboardist Brian Coogan was the crucial link between the rhythm section and the horns, but he was almost a non-player at Red Square as the power cord to his Wurlitzer was nowhere to be found. Eventually, he cob-jobbed a cord together and got the keys fired up, although it also resulted in a late start and a quite audible hum throughout the show.
Undaunted, Double-Wide delivered a challenging, yet thoroughly joyous performance. And though it’s only March, I can almost guarantee that this show is going to end up on my best-of-the-year list.
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Read J Hunter’s review at AlbanyJazz.com