The Howard Nicholson Quartet performed an inspired set featuring the music of Wayne Shorter at the Joe’s Jazz Joint at the ArtsXChange in East point on Sunday afternoon November 12th, 2023.
I arrived just in time to hear the band launch in to Footprints. The performance of the familiar tune was enlivened with a series of powerful solos by Nicholson on soprano sax, John Robertson on keyboard, and Joel Powell on bass.
Following a brief intermission, the band returned to the stage with the standard Invitation which began with robust reading of the melody by Nicholson on soprano.
Robertson followed directly after with a probing and melodically incisive solo on keys, before turning it back over to the band leader for a muscular solo.
During this performance and throughout the entire set, a mood of focused intensity suffused the music.
Black Nile, anther Wayne Shorter gem, got off to a slow start, literally. Within seconds of starting the tune, Nicholson turned around to indicate a tempo increase before embarking on a solo infused with bebop sensibility but continually venturing further afield into more modern harmonic and rhythmic territory.
On Kenny Barron's Sunshower, the band maintain a relaxed, but focused feel. In the more open harmonic environment of Sunshower Nicholson leans more into dissonances and lets the logic of his melodic lines unfurl with patience. Robertson soloed next, quoting Wade in the Water and hinting at Bobby-Timmons-style block chords before driving toward the conclusion of his solo.
On the finale, This is for Albert -- another brilliant Wayne Shorter composition -- the band delivered the melody with fidelity before handing it off to Nicholson on soprano. The leader's solo explored the harmonic nuances of the tune in a masterful fashion, and throughout the performance my ear was continually drawn to the comping of John Robertson, particularly on Joel Powell's bass solo. Robertson's supportive role added an element of rhythmic and harmonic precision that enhanced the overall performance imeasurably.