What’s the thread that runs through the music of Jaco Pastorius, Gil Evans and Lennon & McCartney?
Two words: Melody, sonority. Both elements were plentiful during pianist-accordionist Gil Goldstein’s first set Jan. 11 at the Blue Note, the second of six nights at the popular Greenwich Village jazz club. Goldstein, whose work is heavily influenced by his mentor and former employer, Gil Evans, was joined by an all-star band for a performance defined by thoughtful arrangements and inspired improvisations.
Richard Bona, eliciting a Jaco-like sound from his Fender Jazz Bass, opened unaccompanied for Pastorius’s “Liberty City,” its theme sounded by Goldstein, tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, trumpeter Randy Brecker and vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, and its groove driven by Don Alias’s tasteful conga playing. Bona, a recent addition to Mainieri’s reconstituted Steps Ahead band, liberally laced his low-key funk lines with shimmering harmonics.
The ensemble’s string trio here and elsewhere added more than decorative frills: Violinist Joyce Hammon, violist Lois Martin and cellist David Edgar played a repetitive figure behind Potter’s solo, and turned in meaningful swirls for Brecker, who threw in a quote from Miles Davis’s “Four.”
Lush swells of strings and Goldstein’s mellow push-button accordion fronted a piece allying the Beatles’ “Michelle” — Brecker offered the theme, and Potter and the strings answered with a see-sawing countermelody — with Mainieri’s “Los Dos Lorettas.” Another two-fer came when Evans’ “Boplicity” was linked to “Some Skunk Funk,” an old Brecker Brothers funk favorite. Bona opened that medley with gorgeous wordless vocals over chorded bass figures, and, later, Brecker and Potter livened things up with a bit of twos-trading.
The group’s repertoire featured other original compositions, including Mainieri’s “Sarah’s Touch,” another piece benefiting from Bona’s vocal charms. The Cameroonian bassist’s own “Suninga,” a ballad about unrequited love, taken from his 2001 album “Reverence” (Goldstein contributed arrangements to that disc) made an apropos closing number as he applied his winsome singing to the group’s ebbing and flowing long tones.
Fans of this band’s approach to its chosen composers won’t have to wait for another show date to hear the group again. A live CD, recorded midway during the run at the Blue Note, is slated for a June release on the Half Note label, Goldstein said.