The Modern Jazz Messengers songbook is heavy on hard-bop and post-bop staples, some of which the band performed Wednesday, the second night of a four-night residency at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. The MJM – pianist Mike Jellick, bassist Marion Hayden, trumpeter Anthony Stanco, and saxophonist Johnathan Beshay – is Dobbins’s most tightly knit variation in the Messenger's ten-year history.
Dobbins is an exciting performer, who in the past was known to hijack the spotlight at any given moment of a performance. He's grown into a beloved, equal opportunity bandleader. He divvied up the lion share of the spotlight Wednesday evening to Stanco and Beshay. Beshay tenor playing has old-school magnetism a la greats such as Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson.
As a trumpeter, Stanco is at home in the upper register of the trumpet, which was obvious when the MJM roared through Wayne Shorter’s “Ping Pong,” Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty “and Dobbins’s “Sweet Revenge”.
Stanco showed what a terrific trumpeter he is when Dobbins deviated from the band’s game plan and called the ballad “Only You” and R& B vocalist Anita Baker’s 80’s gem “Sweet Love”. Dobbins dedicated the songs to a couple in attendance celebrating forty-seven years of marriage. Stanco soloing on each song induced goosebumps and some tears, too.
Stanco was blowing so tenderly and warmly I believed his trumpet was going to float out his hands. Listening to the Modern Jazz Messengers perform the ballad, and the R&B slow jam proved the band isn't just hard-bop and post-bop hell-raisers.