Myron Walden is presenting a different ensemble every Wednesday this month at the Jazz Gallery in New York.
Myron Walden is presenting a different ensemble every Wednesday this month at the Jazz Gallery in New York. Josh Jackson
There are five Wednesdays in September, a fact that would normally go unnoticed by nearly everyone save for those of us who mark time for a living. This month, the Jazz Gallery in New York is promoting the bountiful Wednesday harvest with a series of performances from saxophonist Myron Walden.
Walden, a dynamic improviser and a member of Brian Blade's Fellowship Band, is presenting five different ensembles this month at the Jazz Gallery — one per Wednesday. He's also donating the proceeds from the shows to the Jazz Gallery — the non-profit cultural center and workshop which Walden helped inaugurate in 1995 as a member of trumpeter Roy Hargrove's Big Band. After a four-year hiatus from recording his own music, the saxophonist will release three new recordings between November and January — all featuring his original writing.
It was a welcome sight to see a nearly full house last night for Myron Walden's In This World, a quintet featuring Fellowship bandmate Jon Cowherd on piano, Mike Moreno on guitar, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and the talented young drummer Obed Calvaire. Of the five separate bands Walden will bring to the Jazz Gallery, this ensemble is the closest reference to the Fellowship, both in its instrumentation (missing only the alto saxophone, Walden's usual role in the latter band) and in its bend toward the highly textural and reflective mood of the compositions.
There was plenty of pastoral sprawl, as you might expect with songs titles like "Endless," "When All Is Said And Done," and "A Love Eternal." Inspired trio interplay set the tone for "In Search of the Lost City," before Mike Moreno dug his guitar into Calvaire's undulating rhythm. Moreno also took the solo acoustic spotlight on the miniature "Inner Peace," his supple way with the song inspiring Walden to take some pride in ownership. "That was beautiful," he said. "The composer thinks so." He sounded genuinely guilty for sharing the credit.
In a set of slow exhalations, Walden punctuated the airiness with his soprano or tenor saxophone (the bass clarinet was a prop for his first set), and he found purposeful ways to ratchet up the intensity of his solos when the music required it. If there was any overblowing, it was between the songs. Introductions of songs ran long, and they were earnest to the point of capitulation, unless you knew Myron Walden was just that sincere. (The intermittent buzz on the talk mic cable was not helping the cause).
His music, however, made a lasting impression. The set of originals was emotionally lithe, and when the payoffs came with an occasional flare, you could see the way forward.
Myron Walden's In This World is scheduled for release in Jan. 2010. He brings a new ensemble to the Jazz Gallery every Wednesday in September.