Matt Otto Duo
Ariel Alexander Group
Matt Otto Quintet
Better than...watching the People's Choice Awards
Last night, after a few technical difficulties and a strict adherence to "jazz time," the second of four residency performances by the LA Jazz Collective got underway at Little Tokyo's Blue Whale. The evening featured three bands presented by two leaders (saxophonists Matt Otto and Ariel Alexander) creating what Alexander cheekily referred to as a "Matt Otto sandwich."
The evening opened with tenor-man Otto working through a demure set alongside pianist Leonard Thompson. The two share a long history together and it was evident in their playing. For much of the set Otto hovered around his breathy lower register while Thompson laid down an impressionistic pillow of support. After a slight foray into the outer realms Otto returned with "All The Things You Are," giving it an airy swing that stopped one chord short of resolution. It was a pleasant set but a little sleepy, prompting the man next to me to get himself a cup of coffee.
The second set was led by alto saxophonist Ariel Alexander. Alexander, backed by a solid quintet that included mountainous bassist Tim Lefbrve, played a handful of originals composed by her and her guitarist (and husband), Jon Bremen. Alexander has a tight, controlled sound on the alto but it was often marred by needless and sometimes maddening effects. Nonetheless, within seconds of their opener, drummer Chaun Horton taught the house drum kit who was in charge, pounding with a relentless precision that never let up whether he was using sticks or brushes. The band even got the beanies in the crowd bobbing with their furious backbeat. But throughout the set only Lefbrve appeared to be having any fun, getting so funky on the last tune he had to sit down. Only when speaking did Alexander display a playful personality that could have been put to good use had it been channeled through her horn.