Event Horizon Jazz Quartet
Event Horizon Jazz Quartet is a Chicago-based group of Midwestern musicians, all educators as well, making their debut. The principal composers are reedman Jim Kaczmarek and keyboardist Scott Mertens, who between them penned the 11 originals. Kaczmarek likes to call their unit a collective as bassist Donn DeSanto and drummer Rick Vitek contribute to the arrangements and deliver their own individual statements in many of the pieces. All four members have played as sidemen with some of the biggest names in jazz and pop.
Eight of the 11 are Kaczamarek tunes with the balance owing to Mertens, whose composition “Chelsea Playground” opens the set. The ¾ time tune begins with a child-like sounding melody played by Kaczamarek on soprano that morphs into a swing tune, especially with Mertens’ bright piano solo. In writing the tune he envisioned a playground in the middle of a large city with traffic buzzing by on all sides, hence the energy in the piece. Mertens’ other tunes are “Escher Drive” where he switches to electric piano and takes us through a twisting journey, including Kaczamarek’s elongated tenor solo, a turn from DeSanto, and an eventual return to the theme. “Black Samba” is his third, a straight-ahead, relaxed samba with strong parts from both Vitek and DeSanto cushioned by Mertens’ acoustic piano and Kaczamarek’s expressive soprano.
Kaczamarek’s “Guess Not” is a tricky one, alternating between ¾ and 4/4 time with echoes of Corea in the piano intro and Wayne Shorter in the angular tenor lines that progress from romantic to angry to reflect the relationship breakup that was the idea for the tune. “Dark Waltz-When Sadness Comes” features the electric piano tenor combination again with lyrical lines evoking Bill Evans, and according to Kaczamarek, Coltrane. The title track (and band name) uses flute, arco bass and electric piano while drummer Vitek plays quarter notes in the vein of Weather Report. Kaczamarek’s flute solo is done rubato style and both Mertens and later DeSanto deliver their own brief statements.
“Great. There Is No Love “is a variation on “There Is No Greater Love,” with flute again although this time in a non-fusion beatnik oriented vibe, with Vitek creating interesting drum sounds derived from a combination of hand drumming and brushes. The abrupt ending is startling for a second but proves to be a good seque into “Evening Mist,’ a gorgeous, minor-infused waltz, more relaxed than the opening tune but with the same piano/soprano combination through interesting harmonic colors and a piano solo that produces a few surprises. “Last Blue Jay (For Jay Manning)” was written for Jay and wife who died in a tragic car accident. It’s the longest piece at close to nine minutes, an exotic ballad, melancholy but beautiful in a similar way to Trane’s “Naima.” “Strut” is Monk-like while the closer, “We Would Love to Have You,” has calypso and Afro-Cuban strains that may remind of Sonny Rollins although the bridge takes one elsewhere.
The superb writing, the variation of styles, and the mostly sensitive, focused playing make for an auspicious debut, a somewhat unpredictable but generally relaxing listen.
Note: For information on the players, visit www.Eventhorizonband.net
- Jim Hynes