Some of Los Angeles’ best and most reliable sidemen got together to demonstrate what they can produce on their own terms. Bassist Mike Gurrola, who’s made his name working with the likes of Pharoah Sanders, Eric Reed and Terry Gibbs, brought to the Blue Whale a collection of “my best friends” for 70 minutes of music that showed the best of the younger crop of artists, able to keep one foot in the tradition while stepping forward into new worlds.
Gurrola and his compatriots of Gerald Clayton/p, Graham Dechter/g, Danny Janklow/as-ss and Kevin Kanner/dr bounced with delight as they brought youthful joy to a swinging take of Thelonious Monk’s “Eronel” as Clayton was suave as silk on the ivories, Dechter mixed vintage swing with modern harmonics and Janklow crooned through his vivacious alto. A quicksilver read of the bop standard “Bean and the Boys” had Kanner snap everyone to attention with his ride cymbal while Clayton’s digits danced with joy, Dechter has the strings bend and snap like Reese Witherspoon and Janklow seared through the ozone layer.
The leader displayed his prowess on a solo aria of “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” that highlighted both his rich tone as well as his melodicism and creativity, impressing the audience with his flexibility but never straying into over indulgence on this well crafted interpretation
Gurrola was also able to display his prowess at the pen, as his own composition “Green’s Dream” was both clever and optimistic as piano and guitar exchanged volleys with calls and response, and the Coltranesque “Silent Waltz” mixed Janklow’s modal musings on the soprano with Clayton’s flowing rhapsodies.
With Gurrola’s soulful and lithe pulse as a foundation, the leader had the band close with his optimistic “Renka” that included Kanner’s nifty canter to drive Clayton’s tasty piano treats, Janklow’s serene soprano and Dechter’s deep pocket pickings. As my mother used to say, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” With this band, Gurrola’s choice of peers bodes well for all involved.