The Adams House Common Room is a dignified place. You'd hardly expect to walk in on a Sunday afternoon and find a gentleman beating on a conga drum. But there was one there this past Sunday with a dozen or so of this friends from Boston's rapidly-growing jazz underground. All were duly authorized, by the versatile Adams House Music society, for a concert of "Experimental Jazz."
Their basic approach was rather conventional. The piano would state a theme, usually a chestnut like How High the Moon or All the Things You are, and improvise with a few improvisations on its improvisations. A saxophone would take over, add a few ideas of its own, and give it to the bass, or maybe back to the piano. Eventually they would all work back to the bare theme and the piece would end. This method alone is not enough to justify the term experimental. But the group at Adams was definitely experimenting. For one thing M.C. Tom Wilson constantly changed the makeup of the group. He shuttled in three different pianists and two drummers-on the conventional drum set-and used his three saxophones solo, duet, and trio. It was a changing group, and since many of the men had never played together before, they had no choice but to experiment. Sonny Watson occasionally laid aside his alto saxophone and took up the flute. It was barely audible at times, but his few solos proved that the instrument can be used effectively in jazz. John Lewis' use of the conga drum was less novel perhaps-both it was "new sound" to many and very well received. For Alan Miller at the piano the concert was a debut, but his solo in Honeysuckle Rose was easily the highpoint of the afternoon. He had the Brubeck wit, slipping in tunes even from Country Gardens, but a general style very much his own.
Ups and a Few Downs
As usual in a concert of this type, since the quality depends on the performer's feeling at a given moment, there were ups and downs. Ed Conte of Adams sat in at the piano until the other two pianists arrived and did some excellent work with a "blocked chord" style. In All the Things You Are Watson on the alto and Ray Pitts on the tenor sax-the only two with much experience together-engaged in a beautifully fluid duet in the current "counterpoint" style. Lewis on the conga drum and Arnold Palmer on the regular drum outfit both achieved tympanic effects from their instruments in a highly amusing question-and-answer period near the end of Honeysuckle Rex.
On the whole there were very few "downs." This was due in part to the receptivity of the audience. When the concert began there ware only about forty skeptical listeners on hand, but by the end of the program the room was very enthusiastically full. Such responsiveness is commonplace, though, at the Adams concerts. A concert of folk music in the fall, and a concert three weeks ago of music from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries were equally well received. The sponsors deserve credit for their broadminded presentation of music of all periods and genres.