Thursday, December 12, 2013

Faces of the Artists Quarter #12

The Phil Hey Quartet at the AQ, November 27, 2013

© Andrea Canter

Phil Hey (2013)
Jazz in one of the few genres of music that places a greater value on collaboration over individual exploits.  Certainly, there are individual stars, prophets, innovators--but even those artists, by and large, emerged at the top as much from their collaborative skills in ensembles as their singular genius as soloists. I could easily justify single entries in this series for drummer Phil Hey, vibraphonist Dave Hagedorn, bassist Tom Lewis and pianist Phil Aaron. But it is the Phil Hey Quartet as a whole that epitomizes both the best of modern jazz and the mission of the Artists Quarter -- showcasing local musicians with global talents. And save a few early gigs at the old Dakota, the PHQ has only performed at the AQ, typically landing on a Thursday night every month and occasionally on a weekend. Hey leads -- and does most of the commentary which is often quite enlightening re the music and more. But it's the long-standing empathy among the foursome that shines on every gig, every tune.

Dave Hagedorn (2013)
Think of the Modern Jazz Quartet on a diet of Ornette, Miles, Coltrane, Dolphy and Monk, with some original compositions as Value Added extras. Think of group conversations among good friends that could easily disintegrate into chaos but never do-- every shift in direction only challenges each musician to create his own means of following along while thinking ahead to another group adventure. 

Tom Lewis (2013)
And watch/listen as the conversation unfolds via subtle eye contact, musical signals, so many ways to veer off and separate yet always there's that tether that maintains the four-way connection. And watch/listen to collective respect and joy. That's what jazz is. 
Phil Aaron (2013)

And that's why the Artists Quarter has kept jazz alive and well across two decades in St. Paul.

Hear the Phil Hey Quartet one more time at the AQ, December 26th. Make it a celebration, not a wake.