The jazz world has chosen to look forward to the next century by recapping significant portions of the current one. That’s OK–as fin de siecle behaviors go, it’s right in line–but most of jazz’s next generation have kept their retrospection far too narrow. Enter Zane Massey. If you had to design a sax player for the 90s, you couldn’t do much better. The son of songwriter/trumpeter Cal Massey, he had plenty of exposure in his formative years to the music of family friends John Coltrane and Lee Morgan; in the 80s, he explored Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic theories in the explosive band led by ex-Coleman drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson; and on his new album, Soul of Grand Central (Bart Records), he goes urban-underground, grafting on hip hop beats, raps, and multiple keyboards with a fair amount of success. Massey’s playing, at once malleable and directed, balances all these currents. He has a wide, bluff sound on tenor–that’s what happens when you spend the better part of a decade pushing your tone above the blustery hubbub of New York’s Grand Central Station, where Massey plays as part of a city-sponsored public music program–and he peppers it with the guttural growls and edgy split tones that have distinguished tenor masters as far back as the 20s. Even on calmer tunes at slower tempos, he and his trio (bassist Hideiji Taninaka and drummer Sadiq M. Abdushahid) play with an in-your-face intensity. And even when they borrow from past successes (such as Sonny Rollins’s pianoless forays of the 50s and 60s), they manage to create music of their own time–instead of just re-creating music from somebody else’s. Friday, 9:30 PM, HotHouse, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 235-2334.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Gary Hannabarger.