Mississippi Pizza - Saturday, August 19th
Ben Fowler Quintet
Ben Fowler, Alto Sax
Dan Gildea, Guitar
Marcus Reynolds, Piano
Ed Pierce, Drums
Tyler Smith, Bass
Mississippi Pizza, for those who haven't ventured in yet, is a funky, friendly, old-style pub over on N. Mississippi that serves up terrific pizza (by the slice or complete pies), salads, and a nice selection of adult and soft beverages. Most nights of the week, it also serves up great music and on occasion, this being one of those, some dynamite jazz. There is a regular jazz jam session every Tuesday night (Portland Jazz Jams, hosted by Darren Littlejohn), which I've treated myself to often, but tonight's gig was featuring a group that I had only heard pieces of and I wanted the whole Maryanne (including the pizza) . . . the Ben Fowler Quintet.
Missing from the group was the seriously talented Dave Fleschner on B-3 organ. Filling in nicely was Marcus Reynolds on electric piano. Marcus was right at home in this group, having played with Ben in the Farnell Newton-Marcus Reynolds group on other occasions. If these guys were bees, we'd call this cross-pollenization, and expect some interesting flowers to appear at some point...that's a pretty fair analogy for the coming together of very creative musicians from varied backgrounds, yet all just trying to make good honey (I mean music).
The band was well underway before I showed up and I was soon sorry to have missed even one note. Ben draws heavily from the soulful jazz sounds of the Seventies, but the arrangements are fresh and flavorful, with everyone adding nicely to the mix. Each solo was inspired and the crowd was continually applauding, solo after solo after great passage. We were applauding the creativity, maybe even more than the capable musicianship (if the two can actually be separated). I found myself excitedly awaiting each new tune like a kid at Christmas. This was such a perfectly matched quintet, with everyone standing out and no weak links, that I was truly impressed.
The quintet is playing in late September at Jimmy Mak's. Do yourself a favor and check these guys out. If you've already seen them, you know exactly what I'm talking about and you'll get your tickets early.
Check out Dave Fleschner as JSO's May, 2005 Featured Musician of the Month here!