JAZZ REVIEW : John Patitucci Leads Combo Through Some New Material

Debuting original material from his brand new GRP release “On the Corner,” bassist John Patitucci led a quartet at LeCafe in Sherman Oaks Tuesday in a performance that was, if not state-of-the-art small combo contemporary jazz, pretty darned close.

Working with keyboardists John Beasley and Dave Witham and drummer Alex Acuna--a very tight crew, indeed--Patitucci animatedly explored a variety of modern, jazz/fusion formats in the opening set of a two-night engagement that was enlivened by the multiplicity of sounds his partners elicited from their electronic keyboards.

Patitucci, who came to prominence in Orange County, has gained renown for both his Grammy-nominated “John Patitucci” GRP LP and for his playing with bands led by Chick Corea. His set started with “On the Corner,” a popping, funky number. Here Witham and Beasley, both influenced by Herbie Hancock--these days, who isn’t?--soloed, collectively issuing curving lines, wham-wham-wham chords and spinning trills, all underpinned by Acuna’s hard-smacked back beat.

“Venetian Moonlight,” which began softly and gradually grew louder, found Beasley’s electronic piano sounds underscored by kalimba-like tones from Witham. Later, Witham and Patitucci, who throughout the show favored the high range of his six-stringed electric instrument for his fleet-fingered improvisations, engaged in a musical conversation, throwing attractive, cascading lines at each other.


The reggae-ish “Kingston Blues” heard Witham getting a whiny, string section sound before going into more hand-to-hand chit-chat with the leader, while “Flatbush Avenue” had Beasley electronically imitating Miles Davis’ patentable Harmon-mute sound, dancing agilely over a crisp, funk background. Patitucci was quite effective on the gospel-ish “Strength to the Weak,” where he let his bass do the “preaching,” and the set closed with a token straight-ahead essay, “Bertha’s Bop.”

The evening was videotaped by Evangelical Broadcasting of Holland for eventual airing on Dutch television.