Marty Ehrlich Quartet: The philosophy of a groove at Cornelia St Cafe - NYC, Jul 8

  • photography by Clara Pereira / text by Filipe Freitas

On the evening of July 8th, the jazz aficionados who stopped by the Cornelia Street Café (including the illustrious bassist Mario Pavone) had many reasons to leave very satisfied with the quartet led by the respected multi-instrumentalist Marty Ehrlich
Throughout the years, he has embraced several projects, evincing a natural inclination for powerful quartets and bold large ensembles. 
For this particular concert, Ehrlich has chosen to play some of his old and new compositions, proving why he’s one of the most multifaceted explorers of improvised music.

Before anything else, the leader introduced us to his peers: James Weidman on piano, Jerome Harris on electric bass, and Ben Perowsky on drums. 

The quartet, entitled The Philosophy of a Groove, kicked in with “Line on Love”, an emotional tune, suggested as a sort of reflection in the face of the racial tensions that escalated last week in the US. Ehrlich’s spiritual sounds erupted firmly on soprano, intermixing tension and melody, and opening space for Weidman’s beautiful and catchy piano solo.

A brand new composition came to life, probing a sort of a deconstructed bluesy piece that doubles tempo to incorporate penetrating improvisations. The saxophonist, now on alto saxophone, opted to discharge muscled sonic waves that thrilled and stunned; Weidman played quirky chords with his left hand and mixed them with melodic whirlwinds; while Perowsky set off in a powerful and edgy drumming trip that drew a few smiles from his bandmates.

“Rites Rhythm”, taken from the album “Things Have Got To Change”, started with Perowsky’s brushed funky beats and with the four musicians saying out loud these two words with attitude and a deep sense of activism. A bass groove and a piano ostinato were added by turns, forming a solid ground to receive Ehrlich’s steaming improvisation. Weidman and Harris also shone in their respective solos; the former, resorting to an appealing in-and-out concept, and the latter, allying percussive techniques with tuneful melodies.

The next tune boasted a consistently articulated clarinet introduction by its composer and was delivered at a daring 6/8 meter, intercalated with abrupt up-tempo variations. 
It preceded “The Price of the Ticket”, a great song included in the album “The Open Air Meeting”, recorded with Muhal Richard Abrams in 1997. This one was conveyed with the fervent tones of a prayer, which can be compared with David S. Ware’s supplications. Nobody was indifferent!

The set ended with a bonus; an agitating blues, originally composed by Julius Hemphill. Growling into the tenor saxophone and hitting high-pitched notes with all his soul, Ehrlich spread a contagious irreverence into an audience that invariably responded with enthusiasm.