I spent most of a couple weekends back at Johnson County Community College’s Jazz Winterlude. Club-sized crowds enjoyed some of the best jazz in Kansas City today, a mix of traditional and modern music. But of every group I heard, Matt’s stood out as the most extraordinary.
Matt Otto and Gerald Dunn, either of whom could play sax for anyone (Matt on tenor, Gerald on alto), here are at once complementary and competitive, each clearly admiring the other’s solos. Backed by Jeff Harshbarger on bass and Michael Warren’s drums, the base quartet presents Matt’s complex compositions as both supremely engaging and completely accessible. Now add T.J. Martley’s smart and inventive piano. Then layer on Shay Estes’ remarkable vocals. She isn’t singing songs. This is the voice as an instrument, but unlike any instrument played by manipulating keys.
I’m groping for words to explain the wonder which filled the theater. Simply, I have not heard another group like this.
I wrote about and photographed the Matt Otto Quartet last year, here. But I’m so taken by their music, here they are again, from their Jazz Winterlude performance on January 21st. As always. clicking on a photo should open a larger version of it.
The Matt Otto Quartet. Left to right: Gerald Dunn, Matt Otto, Jeff Harshbarger, and Michael Warren
Matt Otto on tenor sax
Gerald Dunn on alto sax
The front line with Gerald Dunn on alto, Matt Otto on tenor and Shay Estes vocalizing
Michael Warren on drums
Jeff Harshbarger on bass
The Matt Otto Quartet plus two. Left to right: T.J. Martley, Gerald Dunn, Matt Otto, Shay Estes, Jeff Harshbarger, Michael Warren
Shay Estes, vocals
T.J. Martley on piano
Jeff solos as Shay admires
The saxes: Gerald and Matt
Shay Estes vocalizing. Behind her, Jeff Harshbarger.