The Collective played it just right
A lot of fine jazz groups have played the Brewery Arts Center recently, but Saturday night’s quintet from the University of Nevada, Reno, The Collective, matched anything that had played the Performance Hall.
All members of the university’s music department, the five opened up with a spiffy original that featured Larry Engstrom (department chairman) on trumpet, Peter Epstein on alto, David Ake on piano and Hans Halt on bass, all backed splendidly by drummer Andrew Heglund.
This was no casual pickup group. These were hard-driving, imaginative, skilled musicians doing what they like best — playing jazz. And any jazz enthusiast who missed this sparkling outing missed a great night of music.
The second piece, “Secret Love,” was kicked off by Engstrom with a low-pitched trumpet driving the tune. This was not laid-back Miles Davis; this was a step down from bop but a full-throated thoughtful intro into the piece.
Epstein on sax came in then with a series of modulations that carried the improvisation along nicely. He’s new to the group out of New York City.
Then Ake showed the strength of his right hand with a series of runs that were balanced later with solid left-hand chords.
Before the performance the quintet warmed up in a green room of the Performance Hall, discussing today’s jazz scene.
“It’s fun right now,” said Engstrom, Dr. Engstrom, that is. “People are getting reckless again after the 10 of 15 years that Wynton Marsalis has been out there on the jazz scene. The music is going in all sorts of directions — chordal, modal and influenced by the music of the world like it never had been before.
“The idea is if it sounds good it is good. I think there’s a more contemplative aspect to it these days. But we all still go back to Miles’ ‘Kind of Blue.’ Listen to it again and again.”
(If you missed Saturday night’s show you can always catch The Collective at the Hacienda in Reno on Thursday nights.)
One of the great things about music at the Performance Hall is the sound acoustics. If you sit too far up front you lose some of the rich quality that comes up halfway back. And that was the way it was Saturday night. Sitting in the back half of the hall was like being surrounded by music, nothing distorted, no hard bounce sounds, just the pure tones.
While the crowd was modest, the enthusiasm was great, reflecting a knowledgeable audience. Sooner or later Carson Country is going to wake up to the banquet being served at the Brewery in its jazz series.
As mentioned, Engstrom has a doctorate, as does drummer Heglund. And pianist Ake is just a smidgen away from his doctorate. Doesn’t matter. All five are fine musicians, even if they can’t help you with a head cold.