Sunday, November 6, 2011
Review: The Rich Wheeler Quartet at Take Five Coffee + Bar
Opportunities to hear live renditions of compositions by Sam Rivers and Larry Young are rare. Hearing them in a coffee shop about 25 miles southwest of Kansas City's historic jazz district is even more unlikely. Yet that's just what transpired Friday at Take Five Coffee + Bar in south Leawood.
A quartet led by saxophonist Rich Wheeler startled a capacity audience of three dozen at Take Five, an increasingly vital venue on the regional jazz scene. Respectful of tradition yet intent on exploring the outer fringes of jazz, Wheeler's quartet exhibits a sensibility similar to the recent work of influential British veteran Dave Holland.
Wheeler, perhaps best known for his associations with Alaturka and People's Liberation Big Band, plays with more warmth and with bluesier tones than most experimental saxophonists. Keyboardist T.J. Martley takes surprising tangents as he solos. In addition to playing solid bass, Bill McKemy contributed the excellent original piece "Homeland Security." Instead of Tony Williams and Elvin Jones (the original drummers on the Rivers and Young recordings), drummer Sam Wisman's playing evoked Jack DeJohnettte.
Take Five may be situated in a soul-sapping commercial development far from the center of the city, but between Wheeler's band and the delicious array of beverages served by its friendly staff, the venue was surely one of the hippest places in the region for a couple hours last Friday evening.
(Original image of Rich Wheeler and Bill McKemy by Plastic Sax.)