"I always take note of jazz groups that aren't the such-and-such trio or quartet. They always have more of a group mentality to their music." So said a friend of the Icarus Ensemble before they burned a rare Saturday night set at the Jazz Kitchen. And his intuition served him well. The players in the ISO jazz side project - pianist Gary Walters, bassist Peter Hansen, percussionist Jon Crabiel, violinist Dean Franke and Mark Ortwein on winds - always play in the best interest of the group.
Ortwein changed instruments every couple of tunes, using soprano sax, bass clarinet and bassoon, both with and without effects. Likewise, Crabiel's drum set included a 20" china cymbal, doumbek and flat ride. With such a wide variety of colors and tones at their disposal, no sound was off-limits. But, at the same time, the band's members didn't switch up instruments just for the sake of variety. All the different sounds were there for a reason, as when Hansen switched to col legno (striking the bass's strings with the stick end of the bow) to echo one of Franke's phrases.
Because the repertoire for an ensemble with violin and bassoon isn't all that vast, the Icarus Ensemble played pieces that were either written or arranged specifically for the band. A few of the tunes were composed by Walters, a composer whose sparse changes and unique harmonic language are easily recognizable from one piece to the next. Hopefully, the ensemble will clear the calendar for a few more gigs in the near future.