Sunday, October 9, 2016

Concert Review: The Hermon Mehari Quartet at Polsky Theatre

Your gray-haired correspondent was one of the youngest members of the audience of about 125 at Polsky Theatre last Tuesday for a free lunch hour concert by a quartet led by Hermon Mehari (Plastic Sax’s 2009 Person of the Year).

A friend suggested that the trumpeter and his band mates- pianist Peter Schlamb, bassist Karl McComas-Reichl and drummer John Kizilarmut- deliberately played conservatively to avoid offending their elders.  I’m not so sure.  I think Mehari’s default jazz mode is based on the sound Miles Davis established in the 1950s in his landmark recordings for Prestige Records. 

I understand why my pal was disappointed by the polite bop recital, but I found plenty to appreciate.  Mehari’s feathery tone was in fine form and McComas-Reichl and Kizilarmut were impeccable, but Schlamb’s playing was absolutely mesmerizing.  I was repeatedly floored by Schlamb’s next-level concepts.

Primarily known as a vibraphonist, Schlamb’s ideas may be even better conveyed via piano.  His subtly subversive contributions to otherwise conventional interpretations of “These Foolish Things” and “As Time Goes By” thrilled me.  A rendition of Schlamb's “Tatra”- a composition Mehari said would be included on his forthcoming solo album- was the most dynamic of the eight selections.

Setlist: If I Were a Bell, September in the Rain, Chi Chi, As Time Goes By, The Lamp is Low, Tatra, These Foolish Things, Stomping at the Savoy

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

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