On a recent late summer afternoon, I had the pleasure of hearing and seeing (live!) the Eric Person quartet at Opus 40, a Hudson Valley venue. Take a look at this site as well. The joy I felt was two-fold: First, listening to a favorite sax player. Person also has an expertise as a multi-reed player, and within the set played alto, soprano and flute, each with a distinct voice and clarity. Secondly, I relished the up-close experience of live jazz.
The program had a wide range, and each song spoke deeply, including several complex and buoyant compositions by Person, also an accomplished composer, with blues-tinged pieces, to straight ahead classic jazz, to more funk and “new jazz” riffs. Along with his own works, the quartet gave an impressive nod to compositions by George Benson, Wayne Shorter, and Miles Davis. After laying down the melodies, Person and the quartet would soar through improvisations that both complimented each other and stood out as exciting, individual solos. The keyboardist, Neil Alexander (see his site nailmusic.com) offered his own composition, “In the Kitchen” that showed off his assured composition skills; he played through this and other pieces with nuance and power. Bassist Adam Armstrong is an amazing musician and a rhythmic rock for the quartet, whether it be introducing songs, exchanging call and response with Person, or taking his own vibrant, soaring solos. Can a bass soar? — yes, in Mr. Armstrong’s capable hands. Drummer Bryan Kopchak was an ever-present force, establishing and then changing rhythm patterns that shifted the songs’ dynamics and emotional directions.
Eric Person (ericperson.com) is one of the most accomplished and creative jazz musicians around, both as a reed player and composer. Look for him wherever he’s performing and with whomever he’s playing with. But try to catch this quartet; they deliver the heart and heartbeat that Person and the other musicians bring to every composition, and the range here feels wide open. I was taken with Eric Person’s ability to effortlessly tread a path through 80 years of American jazz from post WWII be-bop to the current trends. Sometimes in one breath. This was a memorable concert and one that I add to my memory bank of Eric Person performances. I saw him once at a small club in Poughkeepsie, NY, then again at the waterfront in Newburgh, NY, regrettably rained out in the middle of a set. It was wonderful to hear this full set with such a remarkable group of musicians, and the Opus 40 installation sculpture as a background. Even the mosquitos stopped to listen. There was joy here to last a long time. Just when we need it.