Louie Bellson's hands move faster than the eye as they course the battery of 10 drums and a half dozen cymbals he hunches over, his facial muscles lending fleeting, continuous commentary on the musical activity he is the center of. His quartet was at the Cellar Door Saturday night as part of the club's week-long First Annual Jazz Festival and the former drummer for Goodman, Dorsey, James, Ellington, as well as his own big band, was a delight to hear and watch. And his combo numbers three other fine musicians.
Multi-reedist Ted Nash Jr. is a young player who has listened to the tradition from the pre-modern '30s to the free-form '70s and is able to reshape and synthesize these varied materials. The Duke's "Satin Doll," interpreted on tenor sax, was draped in both classic and contemporary garb while Bird's "Now's the Time," on which Nash used alto, was an updated crash course in neo-bop. Pianist John Bunch, an old hand from the Swing Era, is the consummate pianist, his vocubulary of lexical proportions and his phrasing one surprise after another. Tom Short, on bass, was the proverbial Rock of Gibralter. Altoist Billy Murray, a Howard University student and Bellson's nephew, acquitted himself well on the several numbers he sat in on.
The guitar duo of Tom Principato and Joel Kastner opened with now mellow, now simmering four-handed essays on the blues, the Latin tinge and Charlie Christian's "Seven Come Eleven."