A smooth cruise from Temple Town via 15th Street brought us past City Hall with William Penn looking over in a shaft of light as we rolled past. The night was preluded with the playing of instruments and listening to the Grateful Dead. We then arrived at the beautifully abandoned section of Samson street with only the royal blue lights of “Chris’s Jazz Café” shining through.
The second set was poised to begin. The first had been characterized as spacey and free by Pete Dennis, the awe-inspiring bassist, with notably a bit more ‘noise’ than the second set. As we took our seats in the shrouded silence of Chris’s, the Quintet ensured the silence would not remain. Tammy Huynh, the vocalist of the group, whisked us away with her cherubic voice while “the trees were singing songs to the meadows,” as her improvised lyrics so said it.
The set oozed cohesion and was characterized early: the bass darted out on a run up the neck to be caught on a hairpin by the composed, yet raw pianist Luca Farrell. Or vice versa, Farrell would lay down a run over the tapestry of sound only to have his old friend Pete catch him- a breath to mark the meeting – and off they went only to meet again in some forgotten way. The Quintet played a mixture of jazz classics like “Monk’s Dream” by the unmistakable Thelonious Monk, as well as their own pieces.
Farrell contributed a beautifully simplistic piece titled “Temperance.” Utilizing the negative space between notes to lift you away; once any given note would ring out, Farrell would pluck you from space to keep the song afloat. Jeff Golden, the Quintet’s guitarist, explored some new ground on this fateful night as well, taking solos on songs he’d never played before and not missing a step.
Pete, with an ear to ear smile on his face, said the move was “ballsy.” The solo reached its high when the lightning picking of Golden seemed to lift the whole band for a brief moment, before they enclosed him again and were on their way within the song. In the midst of all this, drummer J.T. Beaver was swiftly swinging behind, cymbals shimmering.
The set ended; a rendezvous at bassist Pete and pianist Farrell’s house revealed the inner workings of how we ended up at Chris’s Jazz Café watching their Quintet.
The Quintet was put together by Pete and Luca. Their motivations for finding the right compliments were based on two criteria. The first: finding the best musicians they could. The second, which Pete emphasized the importance of, was finding musicians who naturally fit together musically and characteristically. The Quintet are good friends. This dynamic keeps the acts fresh and from being a “drag” as Pete so precisely put it.
The clarity of this dynamic is brought to light by Pete: “We weren’t just looking for people who were convenient to play with, it is really about liking the people you are playing with.”
Their friendship was palpable throughout the set, with every musician exchanging a glowing smile or laugh with another along the way.
Be sure to be on the lookout for future events featuring the Pete Dennis Quintet, you surely will not be disappointed.