Be-bop, free-form duets, long hovering notes that hovered even longer through the use of electronic echo, brisk up-tempo moments, even a popular standard--woodwind musician Paul Horn played a little of it all in opening his first local nightclub engagement in many years Friday at Catalina’s Bar & Grill.

And, while the performance that featured Horn with David Friesen on bass and piano and Robin Horn (the leader’s son) on drums was heavy on versatility and musicianship and light on emotion and crackling excitement, the threesome--through intuition, listening or just plain craftsmanship--was able to add some sort of spark to each mood that they adopted.

Often these moods changed abruptly. The first number, an impromptu exchange between Horn and Friesen, began with the bassist strumming his “Oregon” bass--an electronic instrument that has the neck, strings and fingerboard but not the hollow body of an upright bass--in recurring patterns as if it were a guitar.


On top of this platform, Horn--who is now more regarded for his atmospheric New Age epics than for the jazz that first gained him prominence here in the ‘50s--offered soprano sax lines that had hints of melancholy. He then switched to alto flute and played stretched-out single notes, which soon echoed as if he were playing inside a large empty room. Then Friesen rhythmically tapped his bass, achieving a hand-drum sound similar to a tabla while simultaneously plucking notes. Here Horn alternated long lines and patterns that descended, as if he were going down stairs.

The set’s highlights included Charlie Parker’s “My Little Suede Shoes,” which, though it was rather brief, had a nice swing feel; a Friesen solo feature where he used electronically repeated short phrases that he had just played as a background, over which he played sensuous bowed passages; and “Paths Beyond Tracing,” which began with Friesen at the piano, playing in a stark, modern style similar to McCoy Tyner, and later featured a facile flute solo from Horn.

The group closed Sunday.