While some veteran jazz musicians are turning to electronic aids, a group of young alumni, faculty and students of Howard University and Ellington School of the Arts is drawing inspiration from several far-flung but long-established traditions.
At Mr. Y's last night the Gregory Charles Royal Quartet warmed up on a loping blues that put tenor saxophonist Atiba Bakr, the trombone-playing leader and bassist Clarence Seay up front with gutsy, relaxed solos.
After augmenting the basic quartet with pianist Carol Yampolsky, viola player Roy Hill and French Horn player Donna Loman, Royal then offered two of his own compositions that used European classical models. The first of these juxtaposed rather somber and beautiful passages with brief outbursts of up-tempo scrambles. The second piece featured Royal's suave and controlled horn in extended sotto voce over random piano. The effect was something like wind against a glass chandelier.
Adopting a quartet format again, the group loosened up again for some hard bop blowing with the leader alternately on trombone and piano. Seay's bass provided background, and Jeff Corbett's drums, well handled if a little heavy at times, laid down bedrock foundation.
This is a group with several faces, and it is perhaps uncertain of its identity. It doesn't seem to know whether it wants to blow bop and the blues or rhapsodize on Schubert. Nevertheless, it is most worthy of attention and will perform again this evening.