Jazz, Bach and pop -- the L.A. Four are covering a lot of territory this week at Blues Alley.
One by one, each memeber of the quartet presented his credentials at the own reflective pieces as well as Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."
Bassist Ray Brown then joined him in subtle counterpoint on Bach's Fughetta IV, balancing the guitarist's stately progressions with his own resounding tone. The illusion of listening to chamber music was dashed, though, when Jeff Hamilton, brushes in hand, settled down behind the drums and quickly developed the light, breezy pulse that the quartet sustained for most of the evening.
Hamilton's brisk workout on "Long John" seemed the perfect prologue to Bud Shank's transformation of "Summertime." Choosing the flute as his first instrument, Shank brought considerable tension to the melody with his sharp, staccato attack, relieved only by Almeida's quieting intervention.
With the quartet intact, Shank picked up the alto sax and the group coalesced as a unit. The balance of the show, including Brown's beautifully expressive talkiing bass on "Mona Lisa," focused the group's primary strength -- crisp, uncluttered jazz. The L.A. Four will be at Blues Alley through Sunday.