Graham Dechter Quartet plays the Broad
With its soft lighting, high ceilings, comfortable seating, wonderful acoustics, and excellent visibility of the stage, the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center hosted one of the most promising young jazz musicians on the scene today: Graham Dechter/Steve Cotter Quartet on Sept. 10.
The classically trained Graham Dechter Quartet was accompanied by guitarist Steve Cotter, drummer Kevin Kanner, and Hamilton Price on bass. The quartet performed six complex pieces that took the audience for a cutthroat ride with Dechter's improvisations.
The introduction was epic. With just the guitar playing of Dechter and Price on bass, the beginning warmed up the room just right. Soothing percussion in the middle of the song led into the rhythmic scales of Cotter's guitar solo, just like Freddie Green once did when he played guitar for Benny Goodman in the 1930s. Without a doubt, Dechter's guitar riffs and arrangements stole the night's spotlight.
Towards the end, the piece slowed into a complex bass solo fading into only percussion. The groovy drums became more dynamic and brought up that "jungle-esque" vibe. All instruments returned for the last scales and finished with the electro-soothing guitar.
After Dechter introduced the band and thanked the small audience for coming, he reminded them that his album would be out in two weeks just before initiating the song "Squatty Roo." The beginning was upbeat with just the bass and guitar; however, once all of the arrangements began, it overall became a more elegant melodic piece.
The communication flowed between the quartet. With a six-string Gibson, Cotter slid, slapped, fluttered, twisted his tuning pegs, and engaged in ethereal chord combinations. The fourth song, "Wave" really stretched out and highlighted Price's staccato-style playing bass. It was a fresh, invigorating variation yet slow and romantic.
Only a few audience members seemed really into it. "It is not what I usually listen to. I am just here for a class requirement," stated music major Francisco Alonso. When asked why he is not really into it he replied with, "Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were the masters of jazz and I see what this quartet is trying to represent, but it all seems like boring music they play while you're on hold." To agree, some parts were utterly exaggerated and the ending was weird. It did seem all over the place-- so much so that it was hard not to become distracted or lose interest.
"It Ain't Got Nothin' but the Blues," did feel like a bad mood swing. It had multiple doses of melancholy moments. The riffs were slow and never picked up speed. Although it was lengthy and the predictable twists and turns made it hard to follow, the energized arrangement was full of soul. But it just seemed like another lengthy blues moment.
Like in jazz, these skilled performers interpreted all tunes in very individual ways. Depending upon each other's mood, they interacted well with one another to deliver an exquisite performance, despite most of the audience not really being into it. Whether or not students decide to buy Dechter's upcoming album it was an average representation of today's jazz.