This afternoon Concerts at the Cadillac hosted a performance by the McQuarry Organ Trio. This group is led by Steve McQuarry, who took a turn at the Patricia Walkup Memorial Piano before moving over to his electronic organ (complete with pedal keyboard). He was joined by guitarist David McFarland and drummer E. Doctor Smith. The group was inspired by the first generation of The Tony Williams Lifetime, in which jazz drummer Tony Williams teamed up with John McLaughlin on electric guitar and Larry Young on organ. However, while Williams’ group was primarily fusion, with influences from both heavy rock and funk, McQuarry’s tastes ran more to straight-ahead jazz.
Indeed, the group began by honoring the past with a performance of Miles Davis’ “So What,” incorporating the introduction composed by Gil Evans and the piano work of Bill Evans. Nevertheless, the lion’s share of the one-hour set tended to feature McFarland’s guitar work. The set included two of his original compositions, “Reflection” and “Spectrum;” and “Dave Walks In” basically honored McFarland joining up with McQuarry and Smith.
McFarland’s capacity for invention tended to involve extended melodic lines, which seemed to soar above any need for a tonal center. (There was more than a little of McLaughlin’s influence there.) This allowed McQuarry to accompany through techniques of superposition, rather than worrying about how to harmonize those lines. Smith’s work with his drum kit (which did not include the Drummstick he invented) tended to go for subtlety unless it was clear that he was taking the lead. When he did so, he could work out driving rhythms whose repetitions were never quite identical. This all made for a highly engaging hour of “basic jazz” with a comfortable ring of familiarity but with very little trace of appropriation of anyone else’s content or style.