If on Sunday night we had a candidate for premier small jazz group on the planet, then here was another down the road at the Forum tonight. This was jazz and no mistaking it. From the burning opener, a Jeff Watts tune in the driving post-bop style this group have made their own, through a sprinkling of standards and some hymn like ballads by pianist Joey Calderazo the enrgy and intensity never dropped. This was another group ‘breathing as one’. Joey Calderazo seemed to be on fire, driving the rhythm section into a frenzy on two other tunes in the long hour and half set. Marsalis himself stepped in on occasions and showed his mettle, particularly on Jabberwocky, but a lot of the time seemed content to distill his contributions into beautifully balanced and lyrical solos. This was perhaps the most straightforward gig of the weekend, visiting familar terrain, but doing so with a command, energy and joyfulness that made this one of the highlights.
Empirical’s opening set of Eric Dolphy inspired originals was sophisticated and engaging jazz with the vibes player really catching my attention. This band are continually exploring it seems, it’ll be fun to see where they go next. Nathaniel Facey, the alto player came back with the Marsalis Quartet for their encore and seemed to enjoy the fire lit under him by the band on Oleo to end the evening.