Alan Jones and the Operators 

by Jim Corcoran

December 9, 2010

JSO Clubscene Report
Alan Jones and the Operators
At Blue Monk on Belmont

Alan Jones- Leader and Drums
Tree Palmedo- Trumpet (Captain)
John Lakey- Elec. Bass, composer
Elysha Strauss- Tenor sax
Adam Brock- Guitar, composer and Vocalist

This is the premium pro level band of students of the Alan Jones Academy of Music. Tree is a winner of the New Land Jazz Student Leadership Award, from 2009. He will soon leave for college.

The venue: Tim Gallineau, one of the owners, has always been a jazz lover and advocate, but closed the jazz venue in 2008, after disappointing results. In 2010, he tried again, and several advanced ensembles have filled the room, and this was no exception!

The place is tidy, sweet and funky. A basement jazz spot reminiscent of the Village Vanguard in NYC. Food is good, and the drinks are excellent.

The youth of these musicians along with their musicianship is a totally amazing experience. The level of authority, even ferocity, of the solos is what most of us straight ahead jazz fans are looking for. Few professional players in Portland can match the intensity of this group. Alan's leadership in jazz education is unsurpassed. He has transmitted the 'fire in the belly' enthusiasm for wonderful jazz music expression to these advanced students, and the joy is infectious.

The songs:

'Two Bass Hit'

'Western Sphere' by Alan Jones

Elysha is a young woman player who is becoming intense. Her fire drove a big part of this performance. As a soloist, she showed some hesitancy in the first few tunes, but as the night progressed, she was truly powerful.

'Tanis' by Patrick Harry (the regular bassist in the band).
Nice counterpoint intro, featuring trumpet and sax only. Beautiful time keeping by Elysha. (This is rare. Most often you see the drummer or bassist push the rhythm along, but Alan is so intuitive, he leads the team very quietly.) Sweet groove with a middle eastern feel. It sounded to me like an Alan Jones piece, but it was Patrick's. Highly scored contribution. Sensitive first solo by Elysha, with nicely structured lines. She also provided some beautiful spicy Latin flavors in her rhythmic accents. These were not likely in the score, but possible, given the depth of the writing. True to form, Tree starts his solo with his 'Mild Mannered Reporter' guise on his first chorus, before astounding the audience with deep, complex and thoughtful variants of the lucid theme. He knows a lot already about building drama and intensity, engaging the audience in a dialogue of thought, utilizing dynamics before introducing surprising and magical motifs, from his ever expanding toolkit. His work is clearly the result of years of study, and for such a young man, it humbles the careful listener, who thinks about these things. (What will he do in ten years?)

'The Lost Ghost' by Alan Jones
Vocal intro with five voices! Then bass accompaniment, through the second statement of the theme. Adam was in the lead vocal part, then the full instrumental complement took off, with Elysha taking over the lead. This is transcendent music! Then the trumpet and sax took over with a simple drum and bass accompaniment shared more of the compositional treasure of this Alan Jones piece. The vocal work was an intentional and thus scored element. This music felt a little like one of Jim Pepper's efforts. (Jim was one of our most important local jazz composers, until his death in '92.)

'On a Desert Island' by Adam Brock
Adam leading on voice in the tenor range.
This is in an odd time signature. I feel a waltz in it, so that draws me in. But there is something more.
The theme is a medium tempo romp for Elysha, then a chorus with Tree, add the trumpet voice. And again voice chord comping for the accompaniment. Beautiful! Alan is solid behind the soloists, and matches the intensity of each one, in turn, stretching out just briefly, after Tree shows us what he's got, which is plenty!

'Exidence' by Alan Jones
Alan introduces us to this one, as an 'adventurous piece'. It starts out as an 'anthem' in a slow tempo.
The statement of the theme is brash and bold. (Understand, this is rare coming from the composer. Alan is an advanced martial artist, and rarely relishes exposing his power. So, we listen more carefully.) The first solo is Elysha's, and she is understating the message, keeping the same slow meter and diminished dynamics but is still intense with an introspective feel, and a phenomenal tone quality. The second solo by Adam on guitar is also quiet, with bass and drums behind. Building up to a strong statement now, dealing with the complicated chord changes, then a unison section between tenor and trumpet; exquisite lines, again so like an anthem, with powerful drum accompaniment. Tree's final solo is jubilant with Alan's sparse drums behind him. Magnificent!

As we reached the end of the first set, and as I prepared for my departures and caught up with a few good friends, they launched the final tune, and it was again exquisite, but I had to go.

Jim Corcoran