Jason Rigby “Detroit-Cleveland” Trio at Cornelia St. Cafe 3/30/2018 (by Nathan Bellott)

PERSONNEL: Jason Rigby (tenor & soprano saxophones), Cameron Brown (bass), Gerald Cleaver (drums)

SETLIST: Mushi Mushi (D. Redman), Unreason (Rigby), Possible Beauty (Rigby), Untitled (Rigby), Satellite (J. Coltrane)

HIGHLIGHTS: Rigby’s dark tenor sound mirrored the patina of his vintage horn

Fresh from a worldwide tour with Mark Guiliana’s Jazz Quartet, Jason Rigby returned to Cornelia St. to lead a trio of regular collaborators. Bassist Cameron Brown has appeared on all of Rigby’s recordings, drummer Gerald Cleaver has appeared on the last two. The most recent, One, features this ensemble playing both originals and standards.

Rigby rarely counts of a tune, he simply begins, and the set commenced with an anthem from the Keith Jarrett’s American Quartet, Dewey Redman’s “Mushi Mushi.” The tune’s corkscrewing melody and harmony are a strong example of the influence of Ornette’s aesthetic upon its author and the American Quartet’s concept writ large. This trio phrases as one, punctuating the spaces between the soloist’s statements with measure.

Gerald Cleaver played the room. His beneath-the-radar approach was effective, but a few accented snare hits made me almost jump out of my seat. Cameron Brown’s big beat shined through on “Mushi” during the open solo sections, where he balanced the harmonic landscape between Rigby’s implications and his own intimations. The “time, no changes” aspect of the tune works perfectly for this trio, as deep swing isn’t sacrificed by unexpected digressions.

“Unreason” was the sole soprano saxophone number, a modal tune in three. Rigby has managed to get almost the same tone on the small horn as the big horn, no small feat. The potential inherent in the title of “Possible Beauty” was to be found in Rigby’s opening cadenza. The newest tune of the night lacked a title: This band often workshops new material on the bandstand, allowing the audience to see a different side of the creative process.

They book-ended the set with another tenor repertoire classic, John Coltrane’s “Satellite.” The majority of the music that had preceded was open, often free of form and harmony. The complex chord changes and set form of “Satellite” forced the players into another approach to improvisation, one that combines intuition with concentration. Rigby offered an open challenge to his previous self with each consecutive chorus. After trading, Cleaver showed off his deep knowledge of the drum lineage with an extended sermon. Afterwards, Cameron Brown amusingly remarked to Rigby, “You waited til the end to call that tune?”

— by Nathan Bellott