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Trading Eights: The Tim Green Quintet at An Die Musik, Aug. 27

August 30, 2010

Mulgrew Miller

After his quintet had finished an exhilarating version of Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty” at An Die Musik Friday night, saxophonist Tim Green explained how each of his bandmates had come to join him on stage. He and vibraphonist Warren Wolf, he noted, had been friends since they were kids growing up in Baltimore; Wolf had even turned Green onto jazz by giving the latter a Charlie Parker album at age 13. Glancing over his shoulder at upright bassist Josh Ginsberg, Green recalled that when he was a senior at the Baltimore School for the Arts, his favorite master class was the one by Baltimore’s Ginsberg. Nodding to the drum set where Ulysses Owens sat, Green explained that they had met at Colorado’s Jazz Aspen program in 2003. When Green had spent the 2005-2006 school year at the Thelonious Monk Institute, he went on, studying with Herbie Hancock and Terence Blanchard, each student had been allowed to suggest one guest teacher. Green had suggested Mulgrew Miller, the veteran pianist from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and the Tony Williams Quintet, and now here he was in Baltimore. “He’s an uncle to us all,” Green added.

Green, Wolf, and Ginsberg are all young musicians from Baltimore now working in New York, but for this homecoming concert, they brought a bit of New York back with them. Miller was a generation older than everyone else on stage, and he supplied a gravity that grounded their restless exuberance. After his piano-trio treatment of the ballad standard “Moonlight in Vermont,” the quintet tackled Wolf’s “Natural Beauties,” which boasted an attractive, mid-tempo theme. Wolf’s felt mallets were a blur of red as he hammered out a cloud of high-register harmonies to surround that theme, and Green provided contrast to those percussive breaks with more sinuous solos on the soprano sax.

The set concluded with Green’s own composition, “Eva,” named after his grandmother. This was a bright, brisk hard-bop number that soon found Green and Wolf trading eights on alto sax and vibes. Green may not have the sheer speed that some young horn players boast, but he has something more valuable: the ability to shape a familiar melody into a new melody, as well-shaped and appealing as the original.

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