To use two well-worn cliche's, legends in their own time too often rest on their laurels. Not so in the case of archetypal bebop trumpeter Red Rodney and multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan, who have continued to expand their musical horizons and creative imaginations.
At the One Step Down with their quintet last night these two giants gave rich expression to a bebop-connected, but open-ended, approach that makes their combo one of the most musically exciting and emotionally satisfying units around today.
Unlike many groups with two horns, Rodney and Sullivan spend much of each number in musical dialogue that overlaps lines, dove-tails phrases and coincides in intricate patterns.
Everything from gusty, rolling blasts to staccato fractional notes in the controlled upper range are part of Rodney's virtuoso attack. Sullivan's multinotes and flowing lines on alto sax, his sinuous soprano sax and warm-toned lyricism on trumpet and fluegelhorn make him a major voice.
In trumpet and saxophone and trumpet and fluegelhorn duets the pair rendered original compositions that overflowed with ideas.
Not least among the pleasures of listening to the quintet was the cohesiveness and total support of the rhythm section of pianist Garry Dial, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirshfield.
The quintet returns tonight.