I don’t get to the Ivy Room often for their Monday and Wednesday creative music shows. The crowd tends to be sparse, but since there’s no cover, you get a mix of regular bargoers and local musicians, and it gives the Ivy Room some activity on what would otherwise be a slow couple of nights.
That was particularly true last Wednesday, in the middle of the storms that have peppered us off and on this week. I cozied up with a beer and some good music; chatted with Rent Romus about this summer’s Outsound Music Summit and with Jim Ryan about upcoming shows for his Forward Energy ensemble; and watched a little basketball, hockey, and ESPN baseball news headlines on the silent TVs above the bar. Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday night.
Some Wednesdays are curated by Aram Shelton, the Chicago jazzman who’s lending us his services while he studies at Mills College. This time it was a set of mostly energy jazz — improvised on-the-spot, often going for speed and gusto.
The duo of Mike Forbes (tenor sax) and Mark Miller (drums) started the evening, with Henry Kaiser sitting in on guitar for about half of the short set. Their improvising showed some healthy energy, but they might have overdone it. Forbes and Miller looked winded by the end. Miller on drums never reached supersonic speeds, sticking instead to a loud and slowish style that I thought showed some metal influence. Forbes mostly pecked around at sax but did show off a few nice runs.
Aram Shelton was next with a group he calls Marches — two saxes, two drummers, bass and keyboards. At least some of their set was covers — they started with an Archie Shepp tune, for certain — and it wouldn’t be surprising if Shelton’s own compositions were in there as well. Really good stuff with space for wide-open soloing. All the saxophone work was good, but I really liked one spot where just the bass and keyboard played, really tearing it up.
Third and last was the trio of Josh Allen (sax), Henry Kaiser (guitar), and Mike Guarino (drums). I’d seen Allen before — big ecstatic-jazz tenor sax with a booming voice. Kaiser’s guitar was actually hard to hear over Allen and the drums — my god, the drums. I’d never seen Guarino play before, and he’s a monster. Big, loud, fast, precise.
I don’t know when the next Wednesday session will be, but in the meantime, The Lost Trio (brief note on them here) have been playing at the Ivy Room on most Monday nights.