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Red and Black Café - Thursday March 30, 2006

Tom Bergeron - Saxes, Flute and lLader
Henryk Gembalski - Violin
Krzysztof Majchrzak - Electric Bass
Michal Zduniak - Drums

This core group, which has recorded together, also added our own Keller Coker on trombone, and Christopher Woitach, on electric guitar.

Red & Black Café is a very different kind of jazz venue. It has a decidedly alternative feel. I would even call the vibe a hippie, almost revolutionary one. It is very comfortable, with room for maybe 30 people, and the mix of customers on jazz music nights is all over the map. Super creative space. Mary-Sue Tobin has been organizing this jazz series under her enterprise she calls Paxselin. Mary-Sue is a very strong composer and alto sax player herself, and recently completed her doctoral work at PSU. The Paxselin Presents series is full of advanced jazz players and ensembles, and it is refreshing to see the younger players building their audience here.

Bergeron is very effective, equally prodigious as a player and band leader. He was a member of Gordon Lee's Gleeful Big Band. He also teaches at Western Oregon University. This project has recorded together in Europe and it is an absolutely well oiled machine. The Eastern European sounding names are from Poland and France.

Keller Coker is one of my favorite players in Portland, and he played with distinction among these heavies. Chris Woitach was in his element. I have never heard him play better, and I must say we are lucky to have him here.

Their music offered strongly scored modern pieces in the "Creative" school, often featuring a saxophone lead with synthesizer, sampler used sparingly. Violinist Gembalski was extremely strong, and the other European players were also powerful players. Zduniak on drums, was very complex and was both a fabulous soloist and a great accompanist.

Bassist Majchrzak composed many of the pieces they performed. They were all deep, complex, and in your face. He plays with such delight and joy, it draws the audience in and you gradually understand the emotion of the piece, which is a collection of sounds unheard before by this avid listener. He has an original approach to the electric bass guitar that is entirely compelling.

Gembalski and Bergeron, on one piece, do passages together in the treble clef that play off the bass motifs created by Coker and Majchrzak like a call and response, only interwoven beautifully. On another piece, there were sections like the one just described where two instruments played in duo harmonic runs, then the play moved to two different instruments, using the same mode. Strange meters, like 7/4, then jumping to 4/4, just to keep you on your toes, it seemed. Icebergs by Krzysztof Majchrzak -- beautiful and very challenging. All the pieces I heard in the set and a half that I was there for, were in this manner of work, sometimes more than a little atonal, or multi-tonal, still extremely organized and expressive.

Unfortunately, we are not likely to hear this project again in Portland for quite awhile. However, the quality of this ensemble can be expected to carry over to many new projects by one of Portland's most accomplished musicians, Tom Bergeron. For more info and access to the recordings go to www.tealcreekmusic.com/ .
My hat is off to Mary Sue, Paxselin, and the Red & Black Café.


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