Birth of a band
by Piotr Michalowski
Popular histories of jazz inevitably concentrate on the great individualists, but some of the greatest contributions to the music have been group efforts. Economic realities have made it difficult to keep large bands together, but smaller combos still thrive. Our area sports a number of successful units, and a new group named Urban Transport is now making some of the most interesting sounds around.
Urban Transport has been together for only one year, but its main members have played together much longer, most notably in the Vincent Chandler Sextet and the Chandler/
Dobbins Band, the direct precursors of the current group. The leaders of the quintet are trombonist Vincent Chandler, alto saxophonist Dean Moore, and drummer Sean Dobbins. Their new bassist is Josef Deas. The piano chair, which has been held by various players, will soon be filled permanently by David Cook.
Vincent Chandler must rank among the top young trombonists in the country. Relatively few jazz players have truly mastered this difficult instrument. Chandler follows in the footsteps of the great Detroit slide master Curtis Fuller but has already found his own voice. His tone is lighter without sacrificing the soulful center that gives his playing its expressive force, he can play with uncanny speed, and his phrasing provides much drama as he manipulates various forms of tonguing. Indeed, his broad array of phrasings brings to mind the saxophone playing of Sonny Rollins, who has built a classic style on just such a palette.
His brother-in-arms in the front line, alto saxophonist Dean Moore, is equally adept on his instrument. On the stand Moore contrasts well with Chandler; his deceptively easy manner is rooted in complete control of his horn. He uses a uniquely identifiable dry tone that hardly varies, forcing the listener to concentrate on his choice of notes and on complex rhythmic variations. Moore is a patient improviser and is a master of form, taking motifs and working them with broad patterns in
mind, often building up slowly to dramatic climaxes. The whole band rides on the solid, tense drive provided by the drummer. Sean Dobbins has the ability to play strongly without drowning out his fellow musicians, and he is with them all the way, probing, answering, and inspiring in a fully musical manner.
As good as these musicians are individually, their cumulative effort is what makes Urban Transport distinctive. They play only originals written by the three leaders and maintain a sense of excitement onstage that is rare these days. Urban Transport brings its evolving repertoire to the Firefly Club on Saturday, May 24.
[Originally published in May, 2003.]