Friday, July 31, 2015

Jazz in Irvington: Coal Yard Coffee hosts free jazz once a month

Jazz fans around town are forever grateful for the consistent support for the music provided by the Chatterbox Jazz Club and the Jazz Kitchen, but it's always refreshing to hear good jazz off the beaten track.

That was fun to do Thursday evening when "Sophie Faught & Friends" were the featured band in Coal Yard Coffee's "Sweet Thursdays" showcase. The converted garage is a comfortably crowded place in Irvington on a narrow street of the kind the historic neighborhood specializes in. (A recurring dream of mine is of wandering lost in an Irvington-like milieu, but we won't go there.)

The band's amiable name is part of the publicity for the gig I attended: This is the "Three Muses" band, to borrow the title of its art-inspired current CD: Sophie Faught, tenor sax; Nick Tucker, bass, and Ben Lumsdaine, drums. Tucker, a new resident of Irvington who puts "Sweet Thursdays" together, acted as group spokesman. He schedules bands for the last Thursday of each month at Coal Yard.

The first set consisted mostly of jazz and pop standards. One Faught original was a zestfully inviting selection early on. This pianoless trio is texturally rich, thanks to the reliable inventiveness of all three players. Its sound in the small room, with the band facing out through the open garage door, was clear and well-balanced — no sound system needed. And this was a listening crowd, with only the necessary business at the order counter competing unobtrusively with the music.

The view from my seat: Nick Tucker sets "Caravan" on its journey.
McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance" was a great piece to walk in on. Its infectious energy was well-sustained in this performance. There was nothing formulaic about even the best-known pieces the trio offered: In "Caravan," the unaccompanied intro laid out by Tucker built anticipation for the intricate pattern he provided when his bandmates joined him, with the saxophone carrying the familiar melody.

"Prelude to a Kiss," another piece from the Duke Ellington book, represented the tender mood the trio is capable of. There was some engaged duo playing between Faught and Tucker in a performance that also included Lumsdaine on brushes.

I'm hearing much expressive variety in Faught's playing these days — assertive, almost abrasive at times, but also occasionally whimsical and deliberately tentative. The latter facet was brought out in the trio's performance of "I Should Care," in which she evoked the quirkiness of Sonny Rollins. There's more than one way to skin a ballad.

Other pieces capably interpreted in the first set were Benny Golson's "Stablemates" and Charles Mingus "Nostalgia in Times Square."

This series is a welcome addition to the scene, and Coal Yard has a range of tasty beverages and treats on sale to supplement the musical enjoyment. Mark Aug. 27 on your calendars. Maybe the next group will play "Let's Get Lost."