Carlos Falanga (drums)
Mark Aanderud (piano)
Marc Cuevas (bass)
Nico Sanchez (guitar)

11103092_1620371631529740_4733862227856481621_oA rare foray into straight(er) jazz territory this week. Makes a change from all the free improv to go and listen to some actual ‘choons’!

What really dragged me out late on a Saturday evening was the opportunity to hear Mark Aanderud. As one-third of the trio Molé, I recently got to review their new release for Jazz Journal and he struck me as an agile and creative purveyor of the art – so, I thought, let’s see what he does with Soda’s beat-up old joanna.

First, a quick confession: I’m really not so good at playing ‘name that tune’. Which is a bit of a bugger at jazz gigs because although I spot the standards as being standards, I can rarely remember which standard it is. Doesn’t stop me enjoying the gig, just a little irritating.

So, after a short, sweet and upbeat introductory piece, I’m pretty sure that the first song is Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Whatever, it acts as a springboard for some nice solos: a few tasteful guitar licks, some nice head-nodding bass, and tight, emotive piano section. I get the feeling that all the parts have yet to connect as something bigger, but those individual parts are all pleasing enough. Part of what’s getting in the way for me is that while I’m very much enjoying Falanga’s percussive mastery, the sound of the drums feels a little too bright and dominant (for my own reference, I recorded the set on my phone and most of the time, all I can hear on playback is the cymbal!)

Another song (sounding a little like Till There Was You???) starts with some subtle brushwork from Falanga and Sanchez leads off with a melody line while Aanderud embellishes before taking the lead – very fleet-fingered, a touch of humour (which is always welcome) and a little teasing at the tempo. Aanderud is coming across as loose, relaxed and expressive – definitely worth leaving the house for.

Overall, for a first time out (I’m pretty sure this is their first gig together as WEPO) it’s all very pleasant; a set of classic jazz playing from four excellent musicians. The synergy of the group never quite fully kicked in for me (and a larger room might allow the sound – the drums – to ‘breathe’ a little more) but that will come in time.