Moran, Potter, Grenadier, Harland
If you’re in New York City and don’t mind the snow (which resumed Friday), go to Birdland in midtown and see the Overtone Quartet, which features Jason Moran, Chris Potter, Larry Grenadier, and Eric Harland. They’re as good as you might expect, better even. They play through Sunday night.
Perhaps I’ve swooned over Moran enough in these pages. He seems to have the entire history of piano-playing embedded in his fingers, able to draw on any era, any style, conveying it in its true idiom yet also in his own distinctive voice, and fit, as if the most natural thing in the world, into the song at hand. For a few numbers, he switched to Fender Rhodes, which I’d never seen him play before, and he’s a total natural there, too, manipulating the pedals (a very different technique from piano pedals) like a veteran.
Potter just keeps getting better: a full-blooded tone on both tenor and soprano sax, fluent and fleeting with the sheets-of-sound solos but also tender and feisty in the ballads.
Grenadier, the bassist in Brad Mehldau’s trio among other groups, is sitting in for Dave Holland, who put together the quartet but had to bow out, owing to a family emergency. The only regret here is that Holland was planning to record the sets for his own label; as is, the sounds waft into the ether. But what sounds!
Toward the end of Thursday’s early set, they played a lovely ballad called “Maiden,” composed by Harland (a terrific drummer who’s worked with Holland, McCoy Tyner, Charles Lloyd, and many others). Moran tapped out the melody. Grenadier accented it with a syncopated riff. Harland matched it. Grenadier stripped it down, Harland stayed with it. And so embroidering this simple melody were three rhythms, disparate but seamless.
This is one of the best quartets I’ve heard in a while: clairvoyant, riveting, graceful, full of swing and swagger in all moods, at all speeds.