PDXV, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (Heavywood).
Five years ago, Trumpeter Dick Titterington brought together for one engagement saxophonist Rob Davis, pianist Greg Goebel, bassist Dave Captein and drummer Todd Strait. They discovered that their combination worked and decided to keep it going. For their name, the quintet added the Roman numeral V to the FAA acronym for the airport in Portland, Oregon, their home base. PDXV quickly developed cohesiveness, stylistic range and an identifiable sound that make them more than just another hard bop quintet. They center their repertoire in pieces by mainstream icons including Thelonious Monk, Joe Henderson, Harold Land and Kenny Dorham. In these two albums they leaven their post-bop traditionalism with tunes from modernists Gary Dial, Steve Swallow, Tom Harrell, Dick Oatts, Fred Hersch, Stanley Clarke and the French trumpeter Nicolas Folmer.
All of the members are strong soloists, as they demonstrate from the outset. Vol. 1, a concert recording, opens with Land’s 1972 composition “Step Right Up to the Bottom,” a kaleidoscope of chord changes, time shifts and variations in dynamics that launch Davis into a gutsy, compact tenor solo. He establishes an improvisational line of inquiry picked up by Titterington and continued in solos by Goebel, Captein and Strait. It is a good introduction to the group and a demonstration of the like-mindedness that gives PDXV its solidarity. Their flawless execution of Land’s challenging material at a metronome pace of 200 leaves no doubt about the players’ chops. Virtuosity is an important part of the package, but dazzle does not seem to be their goal. Titterington’s and Goebel’s lyricism is notable in “Red Giant” by Oatts, as is Davis’s on soprano in Swallow’s quirky “Outfits.”
The blend of the horns comes as close as anything I’ve heard lately to the benchmark of unity established decades ago by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Their merger is remarkable in Vol. 2 with Davis on tenor for a romp through Monk’s “Trinkle Tinkle” and even more striking when he is playing soprano in unison with Titterington on Folmer’s entrancing “I Comme Icare.” In the Monk tune, Goebel manages an amusing tip of the turban to Thelonious without resorting to imitation or parody. For this club date, Strait sent in a sub, Randy Rollofson, not a soloist of Strait’s incisiveness or melodic bent but a fine time keeper with a penchant for strategically placed cymbal splashes behind the soloists. Captein, known to many for his recordings with the Jessica Williams Trio, combines compelling work in the rhythm section with post-Scott LaFaro facility and imagination as a soloist.
You Tube has several short video clips of PDXV, each featuring a member in a solo, but ony one complete performance. It is of Nicolas Folmer’s “Iona.” With three of his compositions on their two CDS, it is clear that the band has high regard for the young Frenchman’s work. This was at the 2007 Cathedral Park Jazz Festival in Portland.
PDXV will be in concert at The Seasons in my town next weekend, with singer Rebecca Kilgore making it a sextet for part of the evening. It’s an intriguing combination; a vocalist admired for the purity of her interpretations of standard songs, and a hard-charging band of rebop adventurers. I’ll let you know how it goes.