By Don Heckman
Medford, Oregon. Adventurous music was in the air Sunday night at Medford’s Artistic Piano Gallery in another stirring musical offering from the Siskiyou Music Project.
What made it “adventurous” and “stirring?” Start with the world class musical inventiveness of pianist Art Lande and the multi-instrumental versatility of woodwind artist Paul McCandless. Then add in the solid rhythmic grooves delivered by bassist Hans Halt and drummer Alan Hall.
The opening set of a diverse program of pieces, all written by band members, quickly established the fact that we would be entertained by some articulate, hard driving jazz, richly invested with the intriguing ideas of sixties and post sixties styles.
McCandless led some of the early soloing. Surrounded by a bass clarinet, tenor and soprano saxophones and a flute or two, he displayed some of the diversity and far ranging roots music sources he commanded during his years with the jazz/world music group, Oregon.
Lande’s soloing, as well as his ensemble work, were extensions of his extraordinary skills as a composer. Always deeply in touch with the rest of the players, he triggered exciting musical events in virtually every tune.
The first set ended with an exhilarating climax as bassist Halt and drummer Hall drove the band to a collective conclusion .
In the second half, Lande seemed to shift into high gear. Moving away from the piano on occasion, he played the melodica, a wind-blown instrument with a piano keyboard. Interacting with McCandless’ soprano saxohone and one of his flutes, taking the band into the soaring improvisational independence of jazz in the sixties.
The mood continued for the balance of the evening. Some of it was free enough to stir interaction with poetry from audience members and stunningly dissonant harmonic passages
Other passages evoked segments calling up references to the likes of George Russell, Thelonious Monk, Return to Forever and other, equally exhilarating memories of the jazz sixties.
All told, it was a banquet of musical delights. So thanks again to Ed Dunsavage and the Siskiyou Music Project for providing a menu mixing familiar tastes with plenty of new pleasures.