Jazz Reviews : Bradford, Carter at Catalina Bar & Grill

The old adage that “great music isn’t as bad as it sounds” was given the lie Friday night by a quintet of contemporary jazz masters led by cornetist Bobby Bradford and clarinetist John Carter.

Despite their both teaching and maintaining their homes here, an appearance by Bradford and Carter in the Southland is a rarity--one long precipitated by the thinking that local audiences will not indulge, let alone support, the efforts of the avant-garde.

Commerce and art lived comfortably Friday at Catalina Bar & Grill, where a sizable audience witnessed the first of three nights of live recording by the quintet. And rather than the squawks and squeals frequently attributed to avant-garde jazz, the group offered a handsome opening set that, while clearly removed from the mainstream, was nevertheless accessible and rewarding.


The group began the evening with a reading of Bradford’s “Sheditude,” a quickly paced tune with a be-bop quality reflecting the leaders’ roots. The piece had a dark quality lightened by Carter’s explosive torrent of notes and darkened again by Bradford’s softer, more economical approach.

The contrast between the leaders was evident in each of the opening sets for outings. Each note of Bradford’s seemed seriously considered; each phrase a thesis. Carter’s work came in exuberant flourishes, each point being made at the end of rambling phrases.

It was a superb study given light in the modal ballad, “Petals,” in the double-stopping “Sunday Afternoon Jazz Society Blues,” and in the breakneck stretching on “Room 408.”

Don Preston’s piano efforts were exemplary throughout, as were his synthesized effects on “Sunday Afternoon.” Bassist Richard Davis and drummer Andrew Cyrille showed their usual brilliance in both support and solo roles.