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Concert Reviews

Ron Oswanski Quartet - 1st Set

Friday – July 26 2013

Trumpets Jazz Club – 6 Depot Square – Montclair N.J.


Ron Oswanski – Hammond B-3 & accordion
John Abercrombie – guitar
Ian Froman – drums
Tim Ries – tenor & soprano saxophone

“When the music was playing, I could close my eyes at times and feel like I was in heaven.”  Those words were spoken by my companion for the evening in describing the brilliant set the Ron Oswanski Quartet laid down at Trumpet’s on this evening.

I certainly felt privileged to have spent an hour plus reveling in the sounds emanating from the bandstand.  The quartet presented a schematic on how to make invigoratingly ebullient music that had myriad elements of atmospheric spaciousness and nuanced fluidity. 

John Abercrombie is one of my favorite five guitarists on the planet.  On this night, Mr. Abercrombie earned first place in my personal pantheon.  He was a wonder of effortless technique coupled with an intuitively fluid musical imagination. 

Ron Oswanski, through his playing, compositions and interpretations, delighted with either a lyrically bel canto flow particularly on Sleeping Beauty and the spiritual/gospel workout December’s Moon, the title track of his great new cd.

The set began with 80-80-8 on which Mr. Abercrombie supplied fluently imaginative fretwork. Tim Ries swung, thwacked and honked on tenor while Ian Froman skittered in the background with boundless poly-rhythms, but always supportive.

Sleeping Beauty illustrated, through all of the player’s contributions, what freedom through discipline sounds like.  Nuance, layers of harmony and marvelous fills and runs on their instruments allowed for the listener to experience multiple a-ha moments of musical pleasure. 

The band also performed Mr. Abercrombie’s tune Nick of Time (from his 2012 ECM release Within A Song) with rigorously thought out variations and development. 

On the tune December’s Moon – Mr. Ries, on soprano saxophone, went “girls gone wild” at the end, and as he had done several times throughout the set, pulling the band with him over the edge and deep into the abyss.  Mr. Abercrombie’s solos were the height of elegance and taste in the beginning before he too jumped into the heightened fray.  Mr. Oswanski for his part offered up thick, tasty slabs of honey cured bacon on the B-3 while Mr. Froman, as he did on every tune, was a study in controlled mania, his sense of dynamic and drive a text book in how to present the drum kit as a vitally fluid and melodious instrument.  The band took you to church on this one and left you wishing the sermon had been a bit longer for a change!

Mr. Ries’ Saint Michel, with his accompanying spoken intro describing the song’s genesis, was a dulcet temptation of sun and sweet summer breeze paralleling an alternate existence raveling and unraveling.  Mr. Abercrombie’s solo was expansive on this tune with all the players employing a wide range of dynamics and responding to each symbiotically.

The set concluded with a Larry Young classic work out tune – Talking About J.C., which was performed sans Mr. Ries contributions.  Mr. Oswanski was rollicking and my scrawled note simply read, genius.  Mr. Froman got to show off a bit on this tune and what a delight of controlled substantive phrasing he was!  Great rolls, fills and trading of phrases with his musical cohorts! 

I cursed the hand of fate which necessitated my having to depart before the second set, due to an early morning obligation the next day, for this was one of the most enjoyable musical experiences I’ve had the pleasure of attending for quite some time.  

John Hammel
Mozart to Motorhead Radio Show
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