Jessica Jones, Hitomi Oba - Blue Whale - 7/24/12
Jessica Jones and Hitomi Oba
Better than... "All of the shitty indie bands I've ever seen, combined" - quote from my singer/songwriter friend who tagged along for the show.
With the opening phrases of moody, resonant counterpoint between the two tenor saxophones and upright bass, Jessica Jones and Hitomi Oba made it clear that the small crowd gathered to hear their collaboration wouldn't be disappointed. Jones, a New York-based tenor saxophonist, made the most of her one night in Los Angeles yesterday, sharing the bill with her former student and fellow saxwoman Hitomi Oba to present a brilliant showcase of their compositional skill and improvisational acumen.
Joined by bassist Dominic Thiroux and drummer Michael Lindsay -- and no pianist or guitar player to add harmonic definition -- the pair offered a tasteful set of original pieces, each with ample room for inspired improvisation. Thiroux was the perfect bassist for this gig: his enormous sound and melodic sensibility allowed him to fill in the gaps usually occupied by piano or guitar.
Opening with the contemplative arrangement of the traditional spiritual "Poor Mourner," the group moved into a medium swing tune penned by Jones, "It All Comes Down to This." For the third number, "Cotillion," built on a raucous groove, jazz superstar Ambrose Akinmusire sat in on trumpet. As it turns out, Jones was one of the people who first hipped him to jazz, too. His solo came on the heels of her forceful improvisation, and he managed to take the energy up even further, compelling Lindsay and Thiroux to join him in a chorus of loud, ecstatic virtuosity.
Oba, by contrast, projected a subtler approach to the song, weaving soft melodic fragments together into longer phrases; this effected smaller ebbs and flows of musical energy from the rhythm section. She then glided nimbly through Jones' composition "Waynopolis," navigating the chord changes flawlessly while remaining rhythmically unpredictable. The group closed the first set with Oba's "Wheel to Cart," which interspersed long tones over a frantic rhythm section. Tiptoeing on the verge of chaos, the quartet always managed to maintain control.