Matt Pavolka’s The Horns Band at Barbes

Barbes’ Wednesday night jazz gigs continue to draw a dedicated following. Tonight we were the beneficiaries of a compelling performance by Matt Pavolka’s Horns Band featuring cornetist Kirk Knuffke, trombonist Jacob Garchik, alto saxophonist Loren Stillman, and drummer Ben Perowsky. At the center of the performance, Pavolka provided non-stop energy, driving his seven masterfully composed originals through a wide variety of musical scenarios. The bassist was supported consistently by Perowsky, who, besides building a great baseline, added the occasional spark to the pieces. Meanwhile, Garchik often paired with one of the other horns, to create aqueous texture to these songs of great emotional depth, while the cornetist and saxophonist spun riffs through the availed passageways. In the first song, Knuffke opened with a long solo, setting the tone for the performance, one that Stillman carried forward. The fourth piece, appropriately titled “Peanut Boy’s Lucky Day” possessed a circus quality to it–one could imagine acrobatics being performed as the music played, though it retained an unpredictable nothing-is-for-certain feeling throughout. The next piece, which expressed a definite shift in emotion, titled “The Evening Redness in the West” was almost mournful in its tribute to dusk with Garchik and Stillman setting the tone over which Knuffke’s cornet danced the last fiery bursts of sunset. Knuffke treated the audience to a solo in the last piece, one that bore many of his signature qualities–one part gentle, two parts fire–a conclusive thought to seal the evening. Throughout, Pavolka’s talent for composition was evident as he painted picturesque scenes, while in place of a frame, fire nipped at the edges.

Cisco BradleyMatt Pavolka’s The Horns Band at Barbes