San Francisco Chamber Jazz Quartet|Steve Heckman Quartet

SFCJQ|Live at Yoshi's

Though New York and Chicago have usually overshadowed it, San Francisco has always had a vibrant and varied jazz scene, and these recent platters prove it's still healthy. The San Francisco Chamber Jazz Quartet specializes in, well, chamber jazz, a subgenre of post-'60s jazz in which small-group improvisational interplay meets the precision and intimacy of a classical chamber ensemble. SFCJQ is an album of harmonious and elegant pleasures: Gini Wilson's piano has the meticulous, warm lyricism of Bill Evans, and Steve Heckman's lithe, meditative soprano saxophone includes the poignant, voicelike resonance of an oboe; Pat Klobas (bass) and Ron Marabuto (drums) play crisply and deftly, providing a subtle rhythmic impetus that engagingly propels Wilson's compositions, thus sidestepping background-music insipidity. SFCJQ closes slyly enough with a couple of nifty, Horace Silver-like soul-jazz swingers. The Heckman-helmed Live at Yoshi's is an entirely different affair. Admittedly inspired by early-'60s John Coltrane, Yoshi's features Heckman's bristling, surging, shiny-toned tenor and keening soprano saxophones working out on originals and songs by or associated with Coltrane. His quartet fashions a post-bop matrix that's both spellbinding and bracing, framing Heckman's focused, melodic wails and Matt Clark's spare, alternately genial and jabbing piano. For classy chill-out jazz, SFCJQ; for jazz cerebral and cathartic, Live at Yoshi's.

 
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