It's not often that you find Blues Alley packed on a Monday night. Then again, it's not often that saxophonist Jan Gabarek and bassist Eberhard Weber perform in Washington, let alone on the same bill.
Joined by drummer Michael Dipasqua and guitarist Bill Frisell, both musicians were true to their own recordings during a performance that stressed texture and tonality over conventional song form. The music was by turns brooding, melodic, turbulent and serene as the quartet moved through three lengthy pieces, each highlighting Gabarek and Weber's special compatibility.
Gabarek provided the quartet's principal voice. He played both saxophones and flutes, often establishing the mood of each selection, be it an Andes-flavored folk ballad or an engaging pop melody that Chuck Mangione could embrace.
Weber, on the other hand, wasn't featured as often as one would have liked, but his ruminative solos made for unusually tranquil moments at times. Mostly, however, he worked closely with Dipasqua in coloring the music with a variety of percussive accents, and in underpinning the wafting, colorful solos played by Frisell, passages which frequently offset Gabarek's more volatile performances.
Alas, a one-night stand seems all too brief for a group of this caliber. The entire quartet should be invited back for a longer stay sometime soon.