Monday evenings in Austin, Texas find jazz lovers at the Continental Club Gallery for their weekly fix of the music of tenor saxophonist Elias Haslanger and his quintet. The event is called “Church on Monday,” perhaps after Haslanger’s critically lauded 2012 album of the same name, perhaps as a metaphor for the almost religious quality of the experience. As described in The Austinot, the Gallery on Monday evening is the place to be. Don’t go without reservations.
Fortunately, for those of us unable to get to Austin there is another option. Scheduled for a May 6 release is the latest from Haslanger, Live at the Gallery, a collection of eight tunes recorded over three Monday nights in 2013. It is a collection of tunes that makes clear what all the fuss is about, a collection that Brad Buchholz’s liner notes says “captures the soulful, swinging, bluesy essence of Church on Monday.” For him it is no metaphor, for him it is a religious experience: “Church on Monday, you see is all about love… and community… and sharing. Church on Monday makes our hearts soar.” Even if, for some of us, it doesn’t quite rise to that mystical level, it does make for some fine listening.
Joining Haslanger on stage are Dr. James Polk, noted director of the Ray Charles orchestra for many years, on the Hammond B3 organ, Jake Langley on guitar, Scott Laningham on drums, and Daniel Durham on bass. It is an ensemble that plays together with the kind of chemistry that can transfix an audience.
All eight pieces are winners, but for me the highlights include the all-out solo assaults from the sax, guitar, and organ on the Herbie Hancock standard “Watermelon Man,” the swinging take on the ballad “I Thought About You,” and their lowdown bluesy “Goin’ Down.” They do a lengthy exploration of that hoary classic “Misty” with a solo guitar intro, and the kind of wobbly sax opening of “In a Sentimental Mood” is something special. “One For Daddy O,” “Song For My Father,” and “Adam’s Apple” round out the recording.
Haslanger and company have put together a performance that will make your mouth water. It may even get you looking into a flight to Austin.
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