Blue Duchess recording artists The Evenfall Quartet were missing a couple of its members at last night’s continuing residency at The Fairmount Grille in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. Saxophone player Arnie Krakowsky filled in for Mark Earley and piano player John Mulroy subbed for Joe “Sunny” Barbato.
The evening was saved by what the subs could conjure up on their instruments, especially while playing with two of the regular members. What stood out the most about this four piece was the chemistry between them. Each had a perfect feel for where the others wanted to go with a piece. This let the music breathe while also letting it flow in any one of a multitude of possible directions.
The establishment, the Fairmount Grille, is classy, old-fashioned, but with a solid neighborhood feel which would make anyone feel comfortable coming in from the sidewalk. A polite crowd came out to appreciate the kind of tender jazz the quartet was supplying.
I arrived in time to hear the quartet playing a light jazz piece suited for the subdued dinner hour. The four next went into “The Girl From Ipanema,” its breezy Latin feel was light and mellow, elegant piano dominating the number which was also well augmented by a light, flexible groove. A tenor saxophone chimed in, playing a wide, vibrant but appropriately gentle line.
A moody, somber piece followed. A tenor sax melody spoke of longing, yearning, matching the vibe of the old time piano bar, one where the happy and the unhappy mingle over quiet drinks.
At certain moments, drummer Jerzy Glod followed in the dramatic footsteps of the other three players. In other moments, he pushed things along with a strong musical presence, bringing a persistent force. His brief solo spots found him smacking his skins in snappy patterns. Upright bass player Brad Hallen matched this momentum with a thick, throbbing low end. The piano joined the rhythm section while adding nice colors and tone as the sax wove an elegant line.
At time, sax man’s melodic phrase was eloquently filling a piece with bright, sassy colors and tones, making it feel like his horn was having a polite conversation with each audience member. Crinkly piano notes and spry drumming filled in the rhythm in nicely. Then, a bluesy sax line was shadowed by a parch work of piano chords, bass touches, and lightly brushed drums, creating a crisscrossing pattern of chords that impressed with their sophistication while soothing the spirit with their lively run of notes.
This first set of music was enough to clarify for the newcomer why this Tuesday night residency has lasted for close to a year. The style of jazz performed last night matched the ambiance of the venue while offering plenty of color, vibrancy, and nuance. It was no surprise that the quartet could draw out a decent size crowd the night after a holiday weekend.