Did you see the shooting stars in the sky over Schenectady Friday night? It was the Mike Moreno Quintet soaring into A Place for Jazz at the First Unitarian Society’s Whisperdome.
These players are hot and experiencing a meteoric rise in the jazz world. You may know guitarist Mike Moreno from his appearance on local saxophonist Brian Patneaude’s latest CD “Riverview.” Pianist Aaron Parks, a Blue Note star, can be heard on Grammy-winner Terence Blanchard’s “A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina),” while his own “Invisible Cinema” stands on its own merit as a jazz gemstone.
Vibraphonist Warren Wolf is a Berklee School of Jazz alum, having studied with Dave Samuels. Wolf was playing drums at age three, touring with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at nine, and entering Berklee at 17. Bassist Matt Brewer, a Julliard Jazz Program participant, has toured all over the world and can be heard on Greg Osby’s “Channel Three”. Drummer Ted Poor also began playing the drums at age three. With his right-on rhythms and syncopated beats, he has been an in-demand sideman for the likes of Chris Potter, Bill Frisell, Respect Sextet and Neos.
Playing a beautiful electric arch-top guitar, Moreno began the evening with his own “Spinning Wheel,” as a slow, powerful guitar solo was followed by piano accompaniment to open the piece. The tempo increased as fellow bandmates join in, and the pace never stopped for a breath, as Moreno flowed from one fluid guitar run into another. The vibes kept the sound open and free. The drums pushed and pulsed the beat. The crowd of about 100 jazz fans smiled, recognizing the dynamic sound of youth.
Next up was “5th Element,” a Moreno composition echoing the influences of sound modern jazz sounds as Blanchard, Potter and others. Yet the open sounds of the circle of fifths paid tribute to classical musical training. “Old Wise Tales” followed with a cascade of flowing arpeggios.
A beautiful four part (vibes stepping down) untitled piece offered a highlight of the evening’s performance. The guitar and piano reached an accord on each other’s ideas, and the melody was so sweet and low, moans could be heard from audience. There was no stress, no tension in this air. A hush preempted the thunderous applause. Changing up the flavor, “One and a Half” closed the first set with a syncopated beat and some dissonant chordings.
The Moreno Quintet returned for the second of the night with the upbeat energetic “Forward and Back.” A young cub scout in the audience could be seen bopping up and down in his chair to the rhythm. Joe Henderson’s “Isotope” kept the momentum rolling, Moreno’s adaptation aptly demonstrating the musicians’ talents to blend jazz standards with a more contemporary sound. This group has learned well from the masters and are warp-speeding ahead.
Moreno offered a treasure trove of self-penned tunes; a couple of them so new they didn’t even have titles yet. The set list for the night contained tunes from his CD “Between the Lines” and a yet to be named or released CD.
The energy in the air was palpable. To quote APFJ emcee Tom Pierce, “With talent like this, the future of jazz is safe.”
Review by Cheryl Jenks
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
THE MIKE MORENO QUINTET SET LIST
Old Wise Tale
One and a Half
Forward and Back
Can We Stay Forever