Few musicians in jazz have received the acclaim alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe has in recent years. Yet despite the praise of musicians and critics alike, Blythe didn't even come close to selling out The Door last night. A pity. His quintet is a joy to hear.
"Miss Nancy," Blythe's first selection, vividly illustrated his stylistic reach, jump-cutting between a bold, swaggering theme and incendiary bursts from the ensemble.
And what an ensemble. Throughout the evening, the cello sounded like a half-dozen different instruments in the hands of Abdul Wadud. With his bow he deftly shaded Blythe's tricky excursions with hornlike phrases. At other times, he pulled feverishly at the strings, adding to guitarist Kelvin Bell's densely compressed runs. Anchoring the quintet was Bob Stewart's strutting bass lines on tuba, while drummer Bobby Battle provided all the necessary momentum and then some.
To this mix Blythe contributed several of his own compositions, which frequently contrasted squalling dissonance with a swinging pulse or lush tranquility. The resulting combination was powerful enough to bring even a tired old warhorse like "One Mint Julip" back to life. Here, against a solid 4/4 beat, Blythe moved up and down the alto like it was a bellowing R&B tenor sax before embarking on yet another fiery tangent.