The Catalina Jazz Club isn't far from me and hosts some hellishly good jazz, but I've never been there (or the Baked Potato), having kinda given over jazz diving not long after Venice Beach's Two Dollar Bill's closed down and Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach turned into a yuppie venue. However, when I hear discs like Jason Lee Bruns Jazz Collective's Live at the Catalina Jazz Club, I sigh and contemplate revising my hermetic existence. Bruns is a highly adept drummer and percussionist who can easily sound like two or three players at once. Ultra-precise and amazingly peripatetic, standing clearly out amid an octet that's equally on the mark, the guy embraces the small big band format with vigor, nuance, and aplomb.
Imagine my surprise, then, when he chose to lead off the set with The Meters' Cissy Strut. What the hell? How damn cool is that? Yet, it makes perfect sense, as the skinspounder started out diggin' on John Bonmham and Keith Moon, was later slain in the spirit when he attended a Roy Ayers concert, and attracts sidemen from Big Bad Voodoo Daddys, The Violent Femmes, the Steve Miller Band, and others. Not exactly a puritanical mindset, hm? And catch the version of Sondheim's Send in the Clowns here, Kevin Bachelder kicking the normally delicate and somber classic in the ass with a strong vocal presence, guitarist Angelo Metz fusionizing the middle eight.
Live is a swingin', dancin', festive cool breeze date of a bunch of cats who came together to play their hearts out and did just that in front of a very appreciative audience, a crowd I wish I'd been a part of, as this is one of those gigs where you can tell that seeing it live was twice as good as the excellent documentation. There's an élan and joie de vivre that's irrepressible, as well as that good ol' right-there right-then sense of creativity that makes concert-going the attraction it is. Above it all, though, Bruns is one helluva drummer, captains a tight energetic band (more than one actually, but that's another story), and is due for much bigger things.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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