LIVE: The Arch Stanton Quartet @ the Parish Public House, 10/25/14
Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu
I was sitting at the bar of the Parish Public House, sipping a club soda and waiting for the Arch Stanton Quartet to come on, when I said to myself, “This is a weird place for a drop party!” I mean, sure, jazz acts have played the Public House – and its previous incarnation, Red Square – before, and the club’s recent NOLA-flavored reboot makes it more conducive to the genre. But it’s fair to say that this congenial downtown space is not on “the circuit” of places Greater Nippertown jazz fans frequent on a regular basis.
And that’s when it hit me that the Parish Public House was the perfect site for a drop party… for the Arch Stanton Quartet. Of the many things I like about the ASQ, their willingness (indeed, their determination) to play outside the box is right up front. Put simply, nobody else in the region sounds like this group, and they’ve worked at that with the dedication of a pack of Corgi puppies chasing a bouncing ball down a narrow hallway. Therefore, why should they give even a smidge of that vibe up in exchange for what might be considered “cred” by people who won’t make the trek outside their comfort zone?
When horn monster Terry Gordon counted in the title track of the ASQ’s debut disc Along for the Ride, the band’s semi-off-kilter vibe was on full display. By all indications, the tune is your standard cruiser that swings for the fences right from the jump. Chris Macchia’s bass line is vanilla bop, and leading the charge on “Along” is a player whose work with the Empire Jazz Orchestra and his eponymous quintet has made Gordon a well-established factor on the scene. But then there’s the rest of the package: Roger Noyes’ guitar sound is tighter than a bridge cable, and there’s an abandon to Steve Partyka’s drum lines that would make most jazz traditionalists head for the parking lot. Put that all together, and this particular thing is not like the others – and that’s a good thing.
As it turned out, “Along” was merely an attention-getter – the overture that gets the audience into its seats. As soon as the last note sounded, ex-ASQ drummer Jim Ketterer joined the band onstage. As an employee of AMIDEAST/Egypt, Ketterer was the main mover behind getting ASQ over to Egypt last year for the Cairo Jazz Festival (“…and hopefully the reason they got out alive!”); he’s also the guy who wrote the liner notes for the band’s brand new album, Blues for Soli, which contains the four-song “Lady Egypt Suite” that was inspired by the trip. After telling us a few things about that trip (and reading an excerpt from a review by some overly-verbose guy who really, really likes the disc), Ketterer got out of the way and the band began their start-to-finish trip through the ASQ’s sophomore release.
The Soli opener “Kofta” swirled even more than on the recording, with Gordon performing analog “wah-wahs” with a plunger mute. Then Partyka hit that big, slow beat, and it was time for the blues, Stanton style. With Partyka in the background, Noyes’ opening solo had more than a hint of Charlie Hunter’s work with Scott Amendola. There are also a lot of parallels between Gordon’s work with the Stanton Quartet and Brian Patneaude’s work with Michael Benedict & Bopitude: Both players seem to find an extra gear when they step onstage with their respective groups, and that gear gives both men a guttural snarl that would make most pit bulls assume the fetal position. While Gordon’s horn mic wasn’t wireless, it didn’t tie him to a stationary position, either, and that let him physically express every note he played. That took the sound up one more notch as the whole band went for the crowd’s jugular and SQUEEZED!
All four tunes in “Lady Egypt” are outstanding, and really show the growth curve this band is still riding. But things went through a whole new door when Ketterer re-joined the group (bringing a tabla hand drum with him) for “Groovin’ at the Azur” – an epic piece inspired by a divine intersection between a sick Terry Gordon and a very loud wedding party. Opening with a huge fanfare suitable for announcing royalty, “Groovin’” slammed into this dancing East/West vibe with Gordon’s horn straddling the two sides. There’s a definite chase-scene vibe here, except instead of cars flying down an alleyway, it’s Land Cruisers flying across the desert. Ketterer’s blinding work on tabla gave the foundation a completely new texture that elevated it above the already-hot recording. They finished things off with the title track, which is a suite all by itself, and a great tribute to a terminally cheerful man who did his best to – quite literally – keep the trip rolling.
The second half of ASQ’s set focused on the five remaining tunes from Soli – from the deep, dark “Aphorisms” and the Cajun reggae “Dungoode Bayou” to the stripped-out fusion of “Striped Water” and the intense “Floodgills.” The softly waltzing “Convection Zone” is the coda for Soli, but the Stanton Quartet, pulled out two more pieces from Along for the Ride – the neo-noir blues “Modest Sleuthing” and the off-the-wall “Flying Gurnard.” These pieces not only served as a great way to end the night, but they also showed the base from which the Stanton Quartet is building a catalog that is truly all their own.
You have to think of it like good gumbo (something that’s also available at the Parish Public House): No two gumbos should taste alike, because they’re a reflection of the cooks who created them. There’s nothing like the Arch Stanton Quartet in Greater Nippertown – and that is both a great comfort and a challenge for others to step it up and make their own unique thing, because If It’s Good, They Will Come… even if where it’s happening is off the beaten path.
More of Rudy Lu’s photographs at Rudy Lu Photos