Pity the poor tuba player: few instruments are so unwieldy and get so little respect. Though tubas began turning up in symphonies in the 1800s, today people usually think of them only in contexts like marching bands, polka music, and early New Orleans jazz. The tuba often appears on the first jazz discs, but for the most part that was because the string bass couldn’t project much sound in the era of acoustic recordings, before amplification—tuba players were called in to provide the bass lines.
Modern jazz and improvised music have had their share of great tuba players—among them Ray Draper, Bob Stewart, Howard Johnson, Melvyn Poore, Marcus Rojas, and Per-Ake Holmlander (the Swede who was just in town with Ken Vandermark’s Resonance Ensemble). To this short list we can add Dan Peck, who brings his New York trio to town for a concert at Heaven Gallery on Saturday night. Peck keeps busy in multiple musical worlds, including jazz and contemporary classical—he’s yet another excellent musician involved with the International Contemporary Ensemble—but this superb trio, with bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Brian Osborne, carves out its own bizarre territory.