The Noah Peterson Quartet - "Live at Biddy McGraw's"
It is no wonder that many of the truly classic jazz albums are recordings of live performances. The very nature of Jazz is based upon the improvisational interplay of the performers. The magical moment when a single rim shot or a tasty sax solo sets a fire in the players and the ensemble becomes one mind and heart. The players become like fingers on a hand; the group itself becomes an instrument for an intangible but very real muse. From Armstrong to Coltrane, from Brubeck to Gillespie, many of the greats of Jazz have found their most seminal and historical work to be recorded live club dates.
The Noah Peterson Quartet, appearing before what sounds like a small but appreciative audience in as unlikely a spot as a Pacific Northwest Irish bar, Portland's Biddy McGraw's; has created a truly classic, truly exciting Jazz album.
A strong and talented group of young players, relatively unknown outside of their local bailiwick, Peterson on sax; Jay Stapleton, guitar; Dennis Caiazza, bass; and Edwin Coleman III (E 3), drums; are a tight, fearless unit. They seem to understand that unlike in Rock music, egos are best left off the bandstand. They give themselves to the music, bringing the best out of each other and their material.
Like most great leaders, Peterson has a style all his own, sweet and tender one passage, wicked and fiery another. He clearly has listened to the players that have gone before, yet he escapes the trap of mimicking an earlier sound as he forges his own. The playing of the group's superb rhythm section, Caiazza on bass and E3 on drums are especially tasty confections. Stapleton reminds this listener of a young George Benson or vintage Wes Montgomery. His touch is skilled and his ear is sharp as he lays down marvelous support for the soloists, and shines with a deep brilliance in his own solo excursions.
Peterson leads his group through delightfully innovative renditions of classics such as "Take the A Train," "Watermelon Man," and "Junebug," The group brings a funky soulful feeling to the Rhythm and Blues groove of Eugene McDaniel's "Feel Like Making Love;" the song feels like a future fixture on jazz radio programming for years to come.
"So What" the Miles Davis standard is a touchstone for understanding the essence of this group. All members play fun, light hearted solos passing the musical baton while never losing the ensemble feel or the forward and upbeat direction.
Horace Silver's "Song for My Father" both opens and closes the CD. Recorded on separate engagements, the group uses the tune to showcase their versatile nature as they bring radically different styles to the work. The interplay of sax and guitar is slinky and playfully smooth on the first, using the melody as a starting point for eastern modal and bolero explorations. On the selection closing the CD the tune has a more open straight ahead groove, with the sax & guitar in a friendly competition for your attention as they embrace the melody, nursing the nuance and sweetness out of the tune itself rather than using it as a vehicle of exploration.
Bottom line, this is a very good record that any fan of Jazz from post-fusion newbie to pre-bebop die hard will enjoy and should add to their collection. The songs are classic, the group talented and deserving of attention; the performances are fun, light, funky and deep. How they managed to make a record this good outside of the New York and Los Angeles Jazz scenes is a wonder. Who knows maybe this is the first in a series, and one day 'Live at Biddy McGraw's' will mean as much on a record as the 'Live at the Bluenote,' and 'Live at the Village Vanguard,' announcement does now. It certainly holds true for this one.
Jeffrey Dawkins, Tiger Strikes Media