For a bargain price at the metropolitan area's arts palace in Carmel, Sophie Faught and her all-
|Sophie Faught led a distinguished quartet.|
star quartet delivered with panache some of her recent and older compositions for about an hour Friday night.
There were many empty seats at the Palladium, but the size of the audience was enough to give a more than adequate response, confirming the esteem in which the saxophonist-bandleader and her colleagues — pianist Steve Allee, bassist Nick Tucker, and drummer Kenny Phelps —are held in central Indiana and beyond.
The seven Faught compositions enabled the band to represent the stature of what she writes and how congenial it can be for elaboration by sensitive artists.
The concert opened with Allee offstage, as a piece for trio saluted the Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, a distinguished figure in world literature best known for the novel "Things Fall Apart." Bass and tom-toms established an elemental pattern for the tune. The absence of the defining harmonies a keyboard can provide helped establish the piece as a respectful evocation of the world Achebe observed in his writings, a world struggling to forge a positive, post-colonialist path.
Faught has an apparent belief in symbols of connection and the role of culture in helping to make those connections. The last number on the program, "Ouroboros," carries in its title an ancient symbol of the cycle of life. The image generating the symbol is a snake eating its tail. The quartet poured forth its farewell energy into this fast blues. The tune's cyclical nature is emphasized by a repeated tag in the theme and recurrent pauses of a few silent beats before the flow resumes. The performance was notable for a typically controlled, yet cyclonic, Kenny Phelps solo.
The title tune from Faught's 2013 CD brought the pianist onstage, with flavorful solos from Allee, Tucker, and the saxophonist. She mentioned that "Day One" was a shout-out to those who supported her development from day one, chiefly her family and her saxophone teacher, Harry Miedema, the longtime director of jazz at the University of Indianapolis.
For humor and attitude, it would have been hard to top "Little Emperor Syndrome," which Faught explained to the audience was a group portrait of "power-hungry people who should stop." I heard it as a kind of nose-thumbing samba, with Faught's solo in one episode including a kind of fierce yodeling, toggling back and forth between two notes over an interval.
A couple of other pieces before a spellbinding ballad, "Lost Moon, " displayed Faught's ability to regulate the intensity of her solos. A natural progression can be compactly represented. Nobody's solos seemed too long, as if waiting for the Great Inspiration to strike.
The tunes had admirable individuality and were susceptible to each band member's seasoned skill in putting his stamp upon the performance. Allee was succinct and eloquent both in the introduction to "Lost Moon" and in his subsequent solo. Tucker's solos were lavish with notes, intelligently grouped, not just flung out into the acoustic glory of the hall. It was a treat to hear all four musicians, accustomed to being heard in smaller spaces, making the most of the setting.