Jam sessions are the summit meetings of jazz--highly charged improvisational encounters between musicians, with only the common language of the blues and standard ballads to bring them together.
Friday night's Jazz All Star Jam Festival at the Silver Screen Jazz Club was not exactly an encounter between antagonistic points of view, since pianist Harold Danko, saxophonist Ray Pizzi, bassist Todd Coolman and drummer Tootie Heath are all post-bebop modernists who probably can find more to agree upon than argue about.
But it was, nonetheless, a classic example of how jazz can bring musicians who have rarely (if ever) worked together into a creatively stimulating interchange.
The choice of repertoire--well beyond the usual jam session pieces--made a difference. Danko's swarming, mad-scientist style was particularly adventurous on "Blue Bossa," "Just Friends" and "Nostalgia in Times Square" (by Charles Mingus) with solos that reached from the keyboard to the inside of the piano.
Pizzi, one of Los Angeles' most consistently adventurous saxophonists, peaked with two wildly idiosyncratic solos on "Stella by Starlight" and "You Don't Know What Love Is." He may be the most oddly affecting ballad player since Sonny Rollins.
Underpinning everything was Coolman's smoothly articulate rhythmic groove. But in the final analysis it was Heath's characteristically elegant drumming ("Times Square" was a highlight) that made this summit meeting a success.
The Silver Screen's All Star Jam Festival, which benefits the Assn. of Jazz Educators, will continue with various combinations of musicians through Saturday.