(Leaning House Records)
It's hard to stumble across a revelation, if only because there's nothing left to shock or amaze us. Today's music is often just a hodgepodge of superior yesterdays, a pastiche of sounds resurrected and retooled for an audience that's heard it all before and doesn't mind or one that's missed out on everything and thinks it's all so brand-new; neither crowd knows any better. What, after all, is most jazz today if not myriad standards dusted off, polished bright, and handed down as though they've never before been performed? Lord knows, the last thing we need is yet another rendition of "Now's the Time" or "Brilliant Corners" or "My Favorite Thing." They've been done to death by men who have long, long since passed; fading echoes will drown out even the most ambitious performer making his mark on history by rewriting it in disappearing ink.
But on a March night in Austin, as Marchel Ivery and his crack band took the stage in a downtown club's subterranean confines, it seemed as though there was still a little room left in this tiny world to be startled and electrified. On that night, Ivery played the hell out of his tenor sax -- made it laugh, made it cry, made it dance, made it moan. Go hear him a thousand times, and still you can wonder why this man isn't revered in his hometown, much less far, far outside it. And on that night, sitting behind Ivery but as much a frontman as the bandleader, 70-year-old G.T. Hogan proved there are some men in this world who do more than simply keep a beat. Saying he plays the drums is like saying Nolan Ryan threw balls for a living.
The Houston resident once backed Billie Holiday and counted among his friends Charlie Parker; then he was thrown into prison for selling drugs. The man can barely walk, can barely talk, but he says enough with two small sticks clasped between two thin, giant hands. With a handful of freaked-out music critics and musicians standing just over his right shoulder, trying to stay out of the way of his drumstick hurricane, Hogan seemed oblivious to everyone in the room, even Ivery and the melody flowing from his horn. Hogan strangled his sticks, punished his drums, and turned solos into heart-attack heartbeats; he makes you wish a drum solo would go on forever.
Hogan's captured on this disc on just four songs, among them the immortal likes of "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Stairway to the Stars"; it's barely enough, though Andrew Griffith does a knockout job on the disc's second side. And this certainly isn't Hogan's disc: Ivery once again wrestles with history and Coltrane (on the soul-Trane "You Don't Know What Love Is" and his own "Another Trane Thing") and comes out a winner. And, again, organist Joey DeFrancesco loans out his soul; the man's what they call a very special guest. But just having Hogan on record after all these years makes this an event -- no, a monument.
Get the Music Newsletter