Angelica Sanchez Headed to Sacto, Bakersfield

I managed to see pianist Angelica Sanchez playing in Oakland on Saturday night, and she’s traveling with the same trio — Phillip Greenlief on sax, Sam Ospovat on drums — to Sacramento tonight (Luna’s Cafe) and to Bakersfield, of all places, the next day.

Maybe I’m underestimating Bakersfield, but I’ve never heard of a free-jazz show happening there. Don’t miss this chance. The show’s at The Intimate Theater, 2030 19th St., 7:00 p.m on Tuesday, May 26.

They did a terrific set on Saturday. Talking to Phillip and Angelica, they seemed a little fatigued — maybe “winded” would be a good term — and understandably so, because if I understand the timing right, they must have spent that day driving up from Los Angeles.

Winded or not, they put up some very enjoyable improvisations. Sanchez showed quick fingerplay, clever ideas, and a strong overall sense of atmosphere, of being able to build, sustain, and shift a mood. Greenlief focused a lot on extended technique, particularly during one piece where he played the bare sax mouthpiece most of the time.

Here’s one moment I really liked: Greenlief played in staccato phrases, haltingly, and then Sanchez began laying down lush, languid chords, turning a choppy theme into something that sounded nearly like a jazz standard.

I can see why they were enthusiastic about Opsovat’s contributions. During one of the more furious passages, his drums really added propulsion, an extra dimension that might have felt missing otherwise. Definitely an asset.

I’m now listening to Alive in Brooklyn, a DIY CD of a 2003 performance with Sanchez on electric piano, Tony Malaby on sax, and Tom Rainey on drums. Nice stuff, and while it’s obviously not going to be identical to the Bakersfield and Sacramento performances, it provides an inkling of what to expect. Here’s a very short excerpt from the 22-minute improv, “Chimera,” showing off some of Sanchez’s playing and a nice entrance by Malaby.