Jazz has a history stretching back nearly a century, and the young artists coming up today who impress one most are those who have studied that tradition.
Last night was UDC night at Mr. Y's on Rhode Island Avenue NE, and the Keith Holmes Quintet, playing a one-nighter, clearly had done its homework. Its leader had the burnished tone and fat sound of the late Clifford Brown and Alex Coke blew a capacious and swinging tenor, derived from saxophonists of yore out of his home state of Texas.
"Sugar" contained some good exchanges between Holmes' warm flugelhorn and Coke's heated tenor. On "Sonnymoon For Two," Holmes coasted along lyricizing in the middle range of his trumpet and ripping into highs with ease.
The rhythm section generally confined itself to a supportive role, but pianist Roosevelt Smith deployed himself well in several solos characterized by sparse line and bluesy feeling. David Marsh walks a steady bass of the upright kind and should stay with it. The bass guitar he brought out for one number was not compatable with the leader's flugelhorn and Coke's flute. Harold Minor lays down a flawless carpet of rhythm.
They all have a way to go, and grow, but this is a group to watch and, even better, to listen to.