Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The baritone is the largest commonly used member of the saxophone family, and playing the beast is, even more so than with most instruments, a physical accomplishment. Perhaps because the horn is so cumbersome, there have been only a few great jazz baritonists: Harry Carney, Gerry Mulligan, Serge Chaloff, Pepper Adams and a handful of others.
Hamiet Bluiett, who began a three-night engagement at D.C. Space Thursday, appears to have acquired a similar mastery of the instrument, though at this point he does not have the subtlety of the greats. Indeed, the New York-based Bluiett evokes more than anyone else the late Leo Parker, who could be an accomplished behopper or a gutsy rhythm-and-blues honker.
Revealingly, Bluiett and his sidemen, bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Thabo Michael Carvin, began the evening with an elemental shuffle blues. Looking like a reincarnation of the late saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, Bluiett coaxed a huge sound out of his horn.
The second number, "Oasis," was built on a seven/four ostinato. Hopkins took a good out-of-tempo solo, and Carvin had an excellent thematically-based outing that included blowing air on his huge snare drum - an effective touch. Bluiett's solo was a demonstration of his thorough knowledge of the "fasle" high saxophone overtones.
The set concluded with a gospelish six/eight tune based on the chords to "Show Me the Way to Go Home." This piece drew a particularly enthusiastic response from an audience that was pleased throughout.