in performance: noah preminger and the brandon coleman trio

Noah Preminger. Photo by Jimmy Katz.

Sitting at Tee Dee’s Lounge last night as New York saxophonist Noah Preminger channeled the tone and dynamics of another great tenor player, Warne Marsh, was exhilarating in the extreme. But the magic went beyond the moment as the evening’s two hour, two set performance with the Cincinnati based Brandon Coleman Trio inaugurated the new Origin Jazz Series, a program committed to staging eight monthly concerts by national, regional and local jazz artists in Lexington at alternating venues through next spring.

The performance at hand was an intriguing though not altogether realized one. Preminger proved a first rate soloist, one that found a tone both lustrous in its melodic appeal (as shown during the ballad “Before the Rain”) and meaty in its boppish drive (the show opening “Transfer”). There was also immense ingenuity within Preminger’s phrasing. Appearing consistently comfortable with a band he seldom plays with (although the combined quartet of artists performed several regional shows over the past week), his musicianship never sounded forced, unsteady or excessive.

Guitarist Coleman wasn’t quite as assured. His solos, though technically impressive, didn’t reveal much by way of vocabulary. There were modestly distorted runs reflecting a clever, prog-ish streak along with an appealing spaciousness that, at times, recalled the late John Abercrombie. But Coleman’s playing often went in circles, summoning little of the natural, conversational dynamics Preminger called upon so readily.

There were two nice exceptions, though, both of which bowed to the blues. A guitar/sax duo reading of “Trouble in Mind” allowed Preminger and Coleman to relax in alternating roles as rhythm and lead players, while the show closing “My Blues For You” enlisted venue owner and longtime Lexington guitar favorite Tee Dee Young to sit in on a slow blues serenade that seemed to unlock fresh rhythmic possibilities for Coleman.

As far as the bigger picture goes, the Origin Jazz Series and its audience may need to look into fine tuning some traditions. The series organizers will have to consider whether the usual two-set club design is really what they want to go with for the other three performances scheduled at Tee Dee’s in coming months. Last night, the house was largely full at the start of the night, although an intermission sent a noticeable number of patrons packing. As for those patrons, they need to realize serious jazz is not a backdrop for idle chat. Several pockets of loud, intrusive conversation punctured the quieter moments of the evening. As Preminger so beautifully contradicted in the title of the Marsh tune, real jazz is not “background music,” but a call for attentive ears and buttoned lips.

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