Hamiet Bluiett has been widely and justly acclaimed as one of the most exciting new saxophonists in jazz today. Yet fewer than 10 paying customers were present when Bluiett & Rain Shout began their first set at the Community Warehouse, a loft space near the National Arboretum. That lucky handful was treated to a trio that mixed free jazz, tribal instruments and bluesy humor into an inspiring whole. Perhaps a larger crowd will see their shows tonight.
The 67-year-old Chief Bey sang and played African percussion instruments that ranged from small bells to a five-foot-tall drum. A much younger Craig Harris played slide trombone and the didjiridoo, an aboriginal instrument whose hollow log is capable of both harmonic drones and yelping melodies. Though their solos were often overly indulgent, both Bey and Harris were perfect foils for Bluiett.
The baritone sax -- often a solemn, harmonic instrument -- became playful and melodic in Bluiett's hands. He stated his blues-based melody figures in short phrases with a deep, resounding tone and persuasive swing. Then he would fill the pauses between each phrase with quick, aggressive digressions, both in and out of the instrument's natural range. The effect was both witty and inspiring.