Bops, Hums and Pings, Turned into Jazz
The jazz drummer Ali Jackson generates a subtle but irresistible force when he plays, making even the smallest gestures advance his agenda of locomotion. Countless times during a crowded late set on Tuesday, in his first of two nights at Jazz Standard, he caught the ear with seemingly errant details — the ping of a stick against the bell of his ride cymbal, or the tight, airless hum of a press roll on his snare — that slyly pulled a listener deeper into the groove. His performance, with a five-piece band, stretched to about an hour and a half. It went by quickly.
Mr. Jackson, from Detroit, is best known for his association with Wynton Marsalis, in whose groups he provides reliable horsepower. Here he opened the set with “Phryzzinian Man,” a calmly cryptic theme from “Black Codes (From the Underground),” the landmark post-bop album that Mr. Marsalis made in 1985.
It was a pledge of allegiance, set at a fascinating distance. “This is from the ’80s,” Mr. Jackson said, introducing it with a grin. “A long, long time ago.” (He was born in 1976.)
In his current band Mr. Jackson smartly modifies the conventional jazz quintet format, enlisting a trombonist, Vincent Gardner, instead of a trumpeter. The other members of the group are Wayne Escoffery, on tenor and soprano saxophones; Aaron Goldberg, on piano; and Ben Wolfe, on bass. They worked with collegial efficiency, pairing modern harmony with blues inflection and dropping the odd allusion to the gospel church.
On “Midnight Silence,” a shadowy waltz by Kenny Kirkland, the group sounded muted but loose, seeking out melancholy spaces. The song faded into a solo interlude, first Mr. Jackson, in a textural mode, and then Mr. Wolfe, in a Charles Mingus holler. This led into “Open Strings,” an original meditation with faintly West African undertones.