Tribute to Keter Betts
The musicians who gathered at Blues Alley on Thursday night to salute the late jazz bassist Keter Betts were in accord: The best way to honor their friend and mentor was with a light heart and a deft touch.
As it turned out, Betts, who died last month at age 77, helped set the mood. His trio arrangement of "Sweet Georgia Brown" swiftly evoked his genial spirit and sense of fun, with pianist Robert Redd, bassist Michael Bowie and drummer Harold Mann playfully interacting. Bowie often echoed Betts's engaging, vocal-like phrases, and even the blues were served sunny side up when pianist Dick Morgan took the stage.
Nothing, though, delighted the crowd more than Morgan's fanciful take on "Isn't It Romantic?" Occasionally reminiscent of an Ahmad Jamal trio arrangement, it boasted orchestral textures and nuanced dynamics. But Morgan's sly sense of humor and sleight of hand enlivened the performance, triggering an amusing series of melodic diversions, rhythmic bursts and codas that refused to resolve.
The opening set also featured New York-based tenor saxophonist Jerry Weldon, who, as a teenager, became acquainted with Betts and was entranced by the groundbreaking bossa nova album "Jazz Samba." He and the bassist later became close friends and collaborators, but when Weldon got a chance to pick a tune, he chose an old "Jazz Samba" favorite, "Desafinado." His lithe rendering, subtly shaded by drummer Nasar Abadey, celebrated Betts's classic teaming with saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd.
Proceeds from the tribute will help support free jazz performances for preschoolers at the Center for Education at Wolf Trap -- a program established by the Betts Trio.
-- Mike Joyce
Alcian Blue stewed over a couple of noisy numbers before it managed to get its video projector up and running Thursday at the Black Cat Backstage. But once the flickering images of marine life and assorted psychedelia hit the makeshift movie screen draped behind the musicians, their dense, guitar-driven dream pop seemed to surge with a new authority.
Taking its moniker from a chemical dye you might have used in your college chemistry lab, the Arlington-based quartet has spent its quiet five-year existence cooking up some very loud guitar ambiance, proudly emulating the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Ride and the Cocteau Twins. Now, with a small catalogue of self-released singles and EPs under its belt, Alcian Blue is starting to send bigger chills through the local music circuit.
Thursday's performance was no exception. When singer-guitarist Jake Reid recited the bellowing refrain to "Everyday Is Fall" over an icy rinse of guitars bathed in cavernous reverb, it felt a lot more like winter. Guitarist Sam Chintha, bassist Matt Welch and keyboardist Kim Dodd each added layers to the band's profuse soundscape -- all four members stoically blasting along to a drum machine's unrelenting jabs.
It's hard to imagine the band interfacing as well with the imperfections of a living, breathing drummer, especially when songs such as "Angelica Take Me Down" and "You Just Disappear" so handsomely splice shimmering electronic high-hats to sheets of guitar din.
-- Chris Richards