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Pianist Rob Mullins makes major statements in both jazz and a combination of Latinized-rock into a fusion that is all his own. His quartet's appearance took place on Friday, March 3rd, to a filled-to-capacity audience at Steamers. Mullins' terrific band: Jimmy Roberts-tenor sax, David Levray-electric bass and special guest drummer Evan Stone (celebrating a birthday on this date). Steamers' owner Terence Love did the MC duties, introducing Mullins in a joking way, as "one quiet guy to another". Those of us who know them know they are straight ahead individuals, with lots of tenacity at all times.
Starting with "Like Someone in Love", Roberts kicked in a couple of meaningful choruses as the trio backed him. His playing soared with high-energy soul. Following were Levray's bass and Stone's drum solos coming forward in fine fashion with some distinguishing 8-bar breaks between them.
Mullins has been playing piano a long time. On visiting his website I learned he had won an impressive award in 2003 for Best Independent Jazz Artist of the Year. He has numerous CDs--his latest, Standards and More, is brand new and he performed several selections during this evening. I met Mullins years ago at a Saturday Pedrini Music Store concert and remember his phenomenal piano playing. This man's chops are unbelievable!
An original titled "Monks Ghost" (a blues) really rocked the audience. It was typical of the stronghold Mullins can obtain with his group's driving straight-ahead format, combined with free styled fusion elements--all sequestered into the jazz he composes and performs. The group created so much excitement! I was surprised to be given a couple of descriptions by two fellow audience members: "A train running through the city, but coming to a safe stop" and "an instrumental gumbo, a tantalizing and enticing journey for the listener."
During a medley, the lovely ballad "In a Sentimental Mood" went into an ultra up tempo version of the spicy all-time favorite "Caravan". Roberts played a myriad of interactive soloing along with Mullins' phenomenal chord voicings, while bassist Levray soloed expertly. Stone then took a long drumming excursion that brought the house down! During Milt Jackson's "Bags Groove", Roberts held some really "looong" notes on his sax solo while Mullins fed him superlative chord changes. They continued right into a fascinating version of "So What" which was a creative knockout. The audience loved it!
Additional pieces from the group's CD were "Giant Steps", "Night in Tunisia", "Angel Eyes" and "Island Girls", a Mullins composition. The Bobby Timmons classic "Moaning" was probably the key highlight of the night. These four musicians stretched their playing to safe and even unsafe limits and again the audience was thrilled. "Manha de Carnival" produced lovely interaction between Mullins' piano and Stone's drumming. The evening's closer was the beautiful "When I Fall In Love". Give yourself a musical treat and catch this very colorful ensemble.
Mullins' website: www.planetmullns.com