Penland Polygon is the apt name of a many-sided quintet led by the drummer Ralph Penland and presented Friday at the Jazz Bakery.
With the exception of Robert Hurst III, the fine bass player well known as a member of “The Tonight Show” band, Penland’s musicians are relatively unfamiliar, though their talent takes little time to become evident. The front line comprises Charles Moore on trumpet and Gerald Pinter on tenor sax (occasionally soprano).
It is from Penland’s strengths that the group draws it success. Because he wrote much of the music, he underlines and accents every note where such nuances are called for. He is one of the Southland’s outstanding drummers, whether working on sticks in “Eye of the Hurricane,” offering a dramatic opening on mallets in a dark, brooding original, or switching to melodica complementing Pinter’s soprano.
On Joe Henderson’s “Caribbean Fire Dance,” he picked up a cuica, the Brazilian novelty that can be made to cry or offer a humorous, near-human cackle.
Penland’s tunes included “For Victor and Ashby” (dedicated to the memory of two former members, Victor Feldman and Dorothy Ashby), and the brisk, engaging “That’ll Work.” The Penland unit deserves more recognition than a small attendance was able to provide on this one-night stand.