Live Jazz: The David Becker Tribune at Vitello’s

By Don Heckman

The David Becker Tribune made a rare L.A. stop – their first in four years – Thursday night at Vitello’s.  The group, led by Becker on guitar, with his brother Bruce Becker on drums and (for this performance) Jim Donica on bass, has been successfully establishing their unique, high intensity, electric version of contemporary jazz for more than two decades.

The David Becker Tribune

But their Vitello’s set had a more encompassing goal in mind.  A few tunes – mostly Becker originals – provided plenty of opportunity for fast-paced ensemble work as well as some dynamic, high voltage soloing from each of the players.  The heart of the program, however, was based upon the Tribune’s latest CD, Batavia.

Based upon his mother’s family’s World War II experiences in Indonesia, as well as a Japanese internment camp, the music embraced a gamut of emotional expressions.  On some tunes, Becker interjected clangy sounds reminiscent of a gamelan orchestra by plucking his guitar strings close to the bridge.  On others, the melodies were inspired by old black and white photos of his mother and her family in pre WW II years.

For this section of the performance, the Tribune players were joined by cellist Aniela Perry.  Mostly playing low, held notes, Perry’s warm sound nonetheless added a rich, atmospheric quality to the music.  But here, as elsewhere throughout the program, the highly combustible, powerfully interactive energies that are the at the heart of the Tribune’s music  were the driving forces that kept this compelling music alive.

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