Last night wasn't exactly an ideal time to open a jazz engagement in Washington--not after an unprecedented weekend of hall-to-hall jazz at the Kennedy Center. To make matters worse, rain kept all but a couple of dozen people from hearing trumpeter Tom Browne's first set at Blues Alley last night.
The few who did attend, though, were rewarded with a performance that bore little resemblance to Browne's pop-funk recordings. Rather than capitalize on his commercial success, Browne leaned heavily on his background in contemporary jazz and his former association with saxophonist Sonny Fortune.
Tunes such as "Triple Threat" were vigorous workouts, revealing Browne's impressive control, attack and clarity. On ballads, his phrasing was tart and lyrical and, while not especially distinctive or imaginative, his solos were compact and appropriate.
Bringing a sense of motion and sometimes urgency to the music were pianist Harris Simon, who currently plays with Fortune, and saxophonist Bob Franceshini, who looks like a young Buck Hill and plays with similar energy and volume. The sextet, filled out by drummer Poogie Bell, bassist John Ray and guitarist Bobby Broom (whose arrival was delayed by the weather last night), performs through Sunday.