Before an overflow throng at CalArts’ Roy O. Disney Hall in Valencia on Tuesday night, bassist Nedra Wheeler conducted a wide-ranging recital that proved there are many facets to her musical personality. Wheeler and her troupe investigated free-form world music improvisations, hard-edged modern swing and the blues.
Playing acoustic bass throughout, the youthful Wheeler opened with a moody, slow improvisation that featured Joshua Spiegelman and Carl Clements on a variety of wooden and bamboo flutes and Charles Moore and Adam Rudolph offering percussive support.
Later, Wheeler shifted to a sinuous, bluesy figure that elicited provocative, earthy statements from Moore, playing Tibetan conch (a horn said to be made of human thigh bone), and Clements. Rudolph delivered a fluid, hand-fluttering conga improvisation and the leader soloed briefly but effectively, achieving a sonorous sound.
Modern jazz was spotlighted when Wheeler assembled a band highlighted by pianist Billy Childs, drummer Ndugu Chancler, saxman Jesse Sharps and Moore, this time playing trumpet. The undulating rhythm and repeating bass line of “Desert Song” evoked the image of a band of nomads moving slowly over the sand. Here Childs, one of modern music’s imaginative improvisers, produced a mix of melodicism and energized playing.
Wheeler is a solid developing talent who should make a sound addition to the musical community.