Bassist Larry Gales, a hard-working mainstream player for more than 30 of his 53 years, presented his seven-man East-West Music Connection at Marla’s Memory Lane on Saturday.
The New York-born Gales, whose work has been featured with such musicians as J.C. Heard, Herbie Mann and Thelonious Monk, has been a mainstay of the local jazz scene since moving to Los Angeles in 1969. During the last 20 years, he has worked with such players as Errol Garner, Harold Land, Bill Berry and Benny Carter.
All that diverse experience was on display during his opening set Saturday evening as he showed himself a capable player, at home with a ballad as he is with the tune from the demanding Monk repertoire.
“Bye Bye Blues,” a familiar old song whose three-note melodic theme uses up four bars, was instilled with a rhythmic excitement by Gales and drummer Paul Humphries. A three-man front line of trumpeter Oscar Brashear, tenor-saxophonist Herman Riley and trombonist Thurman Green, stated the melody in harmonized whole notes before each launched into bright solo moments.
That basic format was used throughout the set, with the exception of Miles Davis’ “So What,” worked splendidly by the trio of Gales, Humphries and pianist Lanny Hartley, and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” a ballad showcased for the richly toned trombone of Green.
Though Gales soloed admirably on several occasions, and sang from the heart on his own composition, “Peach Melba,” he was throughout the set what a good bassist should be: a rock-steady accompanist who propels the music and provides the basis of harmonic structure. Nowhere in the set was he better in that role than on Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser,” a tune that also provided the best vehicle for Brashear’s soaring trumpet and Riley’s pensive work on the soprano saxophone.