Stepping out of the cold and through the door, I turned a corner and realized it must be Soup and Bread night, a semi-recent addition to The Hideout’s Wednesday night menu. Each week, guest chefs bring in soups that guests can sample, with a suggested donation going to the Greater Food Depository.
A smattering of soup bowls and crock pots stacked around the bar area made this all too clear. Soon, I learned that the soup this week had been brought in by some local theater performers (among others), including monologuist David Kodeski and a couple of members of Theater Oobleck. What’s more, two of my favorite Neo-Futurists, Dean Evans and Greg Allen, sat at a packed table full of empty bowls. Unfortunately, I was a bit late for soup, so I grabbed a drink and headed for the music.
After a few minutes of chit-chat, trombonist Jeb Bishop, drummer Frank Rosaly and bassist Jason Roebke climbed onstage. Bishop’s stage banter was adequately terse: “We’re gonna play a bunch of tunes I wrote.”
First up was “The Get Go”, which opened with a somewhat-Latin theme. Roebke and Bishop’s swooping, quick scattershot was perfectly accentuated by Rosaly’s rapid-fire drumming. Using super-thin sticks, brushes and one mallet, Rosaly used a minimal kit (snare, bass, crash and hi-hat) remarkably. Bishop’s muted trombone squawked and honked like cars in downtown traffic, as bass and drums fell away, leaving Bishop to a low, mellow solo to end the piece.
The next piece (which Bishop announced as something that could have been Wombly, Wombling or something like it), opened with a snappy swing bassline. Bishop counterpointed his own trombone, using a mute to have a trumpet-esque sound respond to his own trombone calls. His soloing here, as usual, was astoundingly rich and full. It seemed as if he was refusing to play the same sound twice.
Eventually, bass and trombone matched on a theme, repeating the syncopated bit while Rosaly sharply smacked away. The drum-beat slowly faded into one of the quietest, subtlest backing beats I’ve heard, as Roebke took over for a solo. Rosaly flicked the snare rim with one stick, tapping on the drumhead with the fingers on his other hand. Roebke’s upright arched around quickly, Rosaly took a solo, then the syncopated theme returned.
“11 AM Verdi Mart” (which was inspired by Bishop’s first trip to Mardi Gras,” at the late age of 37,” as he put it) encapsulated his introductory story perfectly. He described being up all night with a smirk, then mentioned walking into a loud, bustling deli the next morning. The song alternated between staggered, lurching pieces about six bars long, and a full, smooth swing bits of equal length. It was easy to imagine, as the passages traded, someone stumbling around, hungover, but then finding their legs for a little while, before almost tripping again.
“Jacket Weather” was a chilly, building piece, full of lofty bass, tinny muted trombone and t-shirt-muted snare. The song was efficiently heavy, dense and cold, but full of intensity; after a slow build, Bishop’s trombone emitted a series of pops and snaps, his neck tensed, his arm flinging back and forth, all as Roebke and Rosaly heated up as well. Eventually, this faded away, and Bishop continued the tune with a melancholy, wah’ed trombone solo.
Next, it was Rosaly’s turn to shine. One of the best drummers I’ve seen perform (on par with the excellent Dave King), Rosaly stomped away at the bass, rolling clouds of snare beats through the room. As he popped away at the top of the bass drum, he used his other hand to take the top of the hi-hat off it’s stand, then use it as a hammer of sorts on the snare, producing unusual, clanky, hollow sound. As he lifted the cymbal back into place, he simultaneously fell back into a fluid, somber rhythm with the bass and trombone.
Roebke took over next, pulling a bow out to match the somber mood of the tune. The achy, swooning sounds of the bowed bass moaned through the room, before the others matched him to end the piece.
“Round 2” concluded the first set. Bishop introduced a quick, growing six note repeated head. As the theme repeated, it would explode upwards, in intensity and volume, before hitting a breaking point. After a quick distorted counterpoint, the theme would return to start the sequence again. Roebke began mimicking this, just as Bishop plowed into a tough, bruising solo. The bass and drums issued sharp, quick retorts to Bishop’s trombone. Exerting his curious, amazing talent, Rosaly reached out a few feet to clink his beer glass instead of his snare hit for one beat, without losing his rhythm in the least. Each musician ended the song with a quick solo before triumphantly returning to the head.
Unfortunately, this Wednesday night wasn’t one of those nights I could stay out enjoying jazz all night (why can’t every night be a night like that?!), so I had to skip before the second set. But, if it was anything like the first, it was nothing short of excellent.