By Robert Bush
San Diego piano virtuoso Danny Green was the featured performer on Aug. 3 at Jazz Live, the KSDS Jazz 88.3 flagship program at the Saville Theatre. Green led a special ensemble that comprised his working trio (Justin Grinnell on bass and Julien Cantelm on drums) and a string quartet that featured Anicka Skalova and Yumi Cho on violins, Travis Maril on viola and Erica Erenyi on cello.
The jazz trio and string collaboration is delightfully exploited on Green’s latest album, “Altered Narratives,” which provided much of the material for the evening. Green opened the show with a new piece, “Down & Out,” which showcased the lush orchestration toggling against a crisp snare drum backbeat from Cantelm and melodically effusive solos from Green and Grinnell.
“Porcupine Dreams” featured brooding strings pulsing in seven and a haunting refrain before it switched gears to a dense coda that found Green rippling through the keyboard. Grinnell had a beautiful personal tone, which was especially evident on “Sifting Through the Silence,” a languid ballad that leaned heavily on his groaning whole notes in a section that blended superbly with the strings.
There was the thrill of a locked ostinato fueled by the pinpoint ride cymbal pings of Cantelm on “As the Parrot Flies” — a Green original that revealed the drummer’s architectural ingenuity and Grinnell’s deep, woody velocity. And there were the pensive, shadowy textures of “October Ballad,” which featured strong input from the composer and Erenyi’s cello.
My personal favorite moment came on “The Merge,” an original that perfectly expressed the daredevil aesthetic inherent in rush hour traffic, where Green’s fingers seemed to fly off the keyboard — yielding first to Grinnell who crested waves of velocity in the manner of Eddie Gomez — then to Cantelm, who tore the house down with a beautifully structured, episodic adventure.
Sonically, this was one of Jazz Live’s most alluring moments. Green’s acuity for string writing and the seamless integration of the quartet and the improvising trio were nothing short of sterling, much as I suspected when the concert was initially announced some months ago.
I don’t think anyone left disappointed.
See review at NBC San Diego