In theory, people who play jazz are really magicians. Musical slight-of-hand artists, they weave aural tapestries in the air from, apparently, nothing. These tapestries can have the oddest effects on people. They can cause an entire roomful of listeners to stand, scream, applaud and beg for more. On the other hand, the same listeners can be reduced to a weeping mass, again begging for more. Truly magic from a troupe of musicians who are just “making it up as they go along.”
On April 18th and 19th of 2006, saxophonist Pete Christlieb and the Lori Mechem Quartet worked some palpable musical magic in the Jazz Cave a the Nashville Jazz Workshop. With virtually no rehearsal time (if you discount the couple of hundred years of collective musical experience in the group), they were able to produce the recording you now possess. In front of live audiences, no less. Penn and Teller would be amazed.
Christlieb’s jazz bona fides are without question. A twenty year veteran of the “Tonight Show” orchestra, thousands of hours of studio work and hundreds of jazz gigs, primarily on the West Coast, have given him the experience required to pull off a one shot live recording without breaking a sweat. A huge-toned tenor player with astounding technique, he is able to fill up a room with his sound. He is stunning on ballads as well as up-tempo burners. Jazz magic without equal.
A few words about the other players:
Lori Mechem’s piano work is a mystical amalgam of Erroll Garner, Bill Evans and Red Garland. She takes the best qualities of all three and manages to pull a musical rabbit out of the hat on every solo, all the while swinging like a fiend.
Roger Spencer’s efforts on bass perfectly emulate his heroes, Ray Brown and Niels Pederson. Rock solid time and unrelenting swing, all done with a quizzical little smile and a subtle bob of the head. It’s obvious when he thinks the music is right and he was a very happy person on the two nights this disc was recorded.
Chris Brown was the perfect drummer for the project. All substance, just the right amount of flash and a boat-load of swing. He drove the up-tempo tunes and his brushwork on the ballads was as subtle as a kiss.
Andy Reiss was, as Spencer so succinctly put it, the “secret weapon” on this recording. Playing solely rhythm guitar, every chord perfectly placed, Reiss held the rhythm section together in the great Freddie Green tradition.
A live jazz recording in Nashville, Tennessee? With on of the best tenor players in America and a truly inspired rhythm section? This was musical magic indeed.