Despite their voiced disappointment over the outcome of the National League playoffs, the members of the New York-based Dave Valentin quintet played a flawless first set Wednesday night at their opening at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood.
But, in music, flawless doesn’t necessarily translate to excitement, and Valentin, an accomplished flutist with sparkling technique, delivered excitement only occasionally during his short opening set. Oddly enough, the exciting moments came not during the Latin-flavored pieces that have long represented the bulk of Valentin’s work. Rather, they came during three pieces taken from the jazz, ballad and fusion fields.
Sonny Rollins’ “Reel Life,” performed at an up-tempo, happily swinging pace, had Valentin and company stretching out with considerable invention. Pianist Bill O’Connell was particularly effective on the tune, contrasting his jagged solo lines with those smoother ones from Valentin. On George Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porgy,” an underlying rhythmic intensity from drummer Robbie Ameen neatly countered the ballad flow.
From the fusion bag came Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” which Valentin attacked with relish. A busy bass line from Lincoln Goines vigorously propelled the piece over percussionist Rafael DeJesus and Ameen’s flourishes. Valentin easily rose to the challenge of the piece.
In contrast to “Footprints” was Valentin’s own “Encendido.” Based on Latin rhythms, the fusion-like piece lacked melodic interest and the rhythmic flow was interrupted by unison breaks.
Valentin has a penchant for folk instruments and electronic gadgetry, and, during a free-form solo called “Awakening,” he melded the two disparate worlds. While the sounds of the wooden flutes being played through the various gadgets were interesting, there wasn’t enough music being created to sustain interest.
Valentin works the Catalina through Sunday.