The very loose, somewhat rough, thoroughly enjoyable show that unfolded at the Jazz Showcase on Thursday night did not follow the club's usual format.
Instead of featuring a main attraction, the whimsically titled "Dynamic Duos" show featured two pairs of Chicago performers, plus additional players entering and exiting the proceedings as well.
One often got the feeling that no one knew exactly what was going to happen next, which was part of the evening's charm.
The most exquisitely polished music-making came from Two for
The musicians sounded newly inspired by each other's work, with Garcia, especially, offering one musical surprise after another.
For starters, Garcia's scat singing showed more sophistication, complexity and daring than ever. He may have been straining to reach those difficult-to-achieve high notes, but the fact that he was trying for them pointed to an artist challenging himself.
More typically, though, Garcia unfurled some of the most intricate, subtly nuanced vocal lines listeners have heard from him. In
Fishman, too, sounded slightly different than what one might have expected, his tenor playing more rambunctious in spirit and open in tone than is his custom. He brought yearning, long-held notes to
Clearly, Garcia and Fishman were celebrating the moment.
The evening's other duo also perform together only periodically, so pianist Willie Pickens and vibist Stu Katz had a great deal to say. Some problems with amplification and sound balance marred the first part of their set, but they eventually found their equilibrium.
Pickens' two-fisted chords, thunderous right hand and rumbling bass lines dominated the performance, but Katz's single-note lines often enhanced it. If textures became a bit thick in
And the two players took flight in the Gershwins' "Who Cares?" Pickens' solos layered multiple themes, his right-hand figures startling in their virtuosity. The fireworks heated up Katz's playing, as well, the vibist pushing the tempo and unleashing an avalanche of notes.
Later in the evening, drummer Robert Shy and bassist Marlene Rosenberg joined the fray, giving the evening more of a jam-session quality than one usually encounters at the Showcase.
In all, an appealing, unscripted change of pace.