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JAZZ REVIEW : Jazz Superband Lives Up to Its Name

Bring four of jazz-fusion’s best-known headliners together in one group and you’ve got a first-rate clash of egos and all the one-upmanship that goes with it, right?

Not with the Jazz Explosion Superband--drummer Billy Cobham, guitarist Larry Carlton, bassist Stanley Clarke and saxophonist Najee--whose members seemed more intent on working as a group than as individuals during their Coach House appearance here Thursday. In fact, so magnanimous was the foursome that they treated their fifth member, relatively unknown keyboardist Deron Johnson, to nearly the same amount of improvisational space that they gave themselves.

The band, which matched a pair of standards--Charles Mingus’ “Good-Bye Pork Pie Hat” and Miles Davis’ “All Blues"--with numbers selected from each of their careers, was at its best mining stripped-down funk beats or simple blues lines. To their credit, the band mates avoided histrionics. Instead, their solos were well-formed, sometimes technically astute efforts that avoided cheap appeals to emotion.

Especially impressive was saxophonist Najee, whose tenor work was equally thoughtful and skilled. He also took an impressively constructed flute solo on “All Blues,” backed by Clarke’s crisp walk on acoustic bass.

Only during the last number, Clarke’s signature tune “School Days,” did the band resort to endless riffing and pointless, up-register excitement. The Jazz Explosion Superband concludes their current tour tonight at the Greek Theatre.

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