Thursday, November 24, 2016

Mark Ortwein brings his visiting son into the quartet mix at Fountain Square Brewery

John Fell, Mark Ortwein, Craig Hetrick, Olas Ortwein.
It was a bit of a pre-Thanksgiving lift to motor ten miles through a chilly, rainy evening to Fountain Square Brewery to catch a special edition of the Ortwein JazzTet, featuring the leader's son Olas on electric bass.

A pint of Backyard Porter to accompany listening to a set-and-a-half didn't hurt, of course.

Olas is visiting for Thanksgiving from New Orleans, where he lives, plays and studies. He sat in with his saxophonist-bassoonist dad Mark and his regular colleagues Craig Hetrick, drums, and John Fell, guitar.

I came in during a hearty excursion through Horace Silver's "Song for My Father" and left near the end of the second set, when the Beatles' "Yesterday" was drifting toward a wistful close.

In between came some versions of two of the multi-reed player's contributions to Icarus Ensemble book, the jagged "Schizoid" and the tender ballad "Lunar Love," plus adventures in Theloniousland — "Monk's Blues" and "Well You Needn't" — s couple of durable Coltrane pieces ("Impressions" and "Lonnie's Lament"), and an Olas original whose title I didn't catch.

I was most elated by the quartet's performance of the Theme from "Black Orpheus," in which the leader played the bassoon, the instrument of his "day job" in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. That's also where the spot-on drummer Hetrick, here making efficient, splendid use of a small kit (tom, snare, bass drum and three cymbals, including hi-hat) plies his trade for money as well as love (if the intermission video recently shown at Hilbert Circle Theatre is an accurate indication).

The robust sound of the amplified bassoon, with a pick-up that permits doubling at the octave of Ortwein's sinuous melodic line, was a joy to hear. It was an added pleasure that Fell's most extravagant, exciting solo was part of this rendition. The guitarist knows how to double down on an improvisational idea and let it go before it becomes boring. There was always a new idea ready to elbow its way in.

Olas was in fine form in "Lonnie's Lament," and tops among the high-level work of Hetrick and the multifaceted leader was how they cut loose in "Impressions," notably with  Ortwein's extroverted alto-sax playing.

With so much to be thankful for, the current state of Indianapolis jazz stands high on my list.