Existential, but stoked to be here: Jon Bentley Quartet

With Chris Gestrin on organ, Tristan Paxton on guitar, and Joe Poole on drums at La Fabrique

Existential, but stoked to be here: Jon Bentley Quartet
L-R: Tristan Paxton, Chris Gestrin, Jon Bentley, Joe Poole

I heard two sets of saxophonist Jon Bentley in his quartet with Tristan Paxton on guitar, Chris Gestrin on a Viscount organ he just purchased, and Joe Poole on drums at La Fabrique St-George back on March 9, 2024. Right after the gig, the quartet went into the studio, so the live set made for a fun preview of what they'll have in store.

The band dialed up a strong unison melody and insistent beat right away, and the guitar and drums caught my attention. Paxton's firm tone is close to George Benson and Wes Montgomery, or closer to home Dave Sikula or a less woody Oliver Gannon. Poole has been on a remarkable run for a jazz musician in these times. Avid fans have heard him plays drums four or five times, maybe more, in as many days. He was cool as a cucumber through the shout chorus of "Balcony Jogger", which Bentley named after an entertaining neighbour who exercised on a balcony within his view from home. "I used to make a coffee and sit down and watch," he said.

"Amanita So Fly" named after the fly amanita mushroom, is a scene-evoking but not soul-baring title. It's somewhere between the titling styles of Cory Weeds and Brad Turner. The tune is an easy boogaloo and bossa hybrid. I think of Bentley as having a pure-toned tenor concept, but he sure knows exactly where to place the warble of vibrato at the ends of his notes when he wants it. Dexter Gordon is there, as is the high-pitched John Coltrane sound.

Bentley dedicated the hard-bopping boogaloo "Go Ahead" to "being forced underwater when you weren't expecting it", spelling out the theme of overcoming adversity with a story about going for a swim as a child. Instead of meditating on the hands that life deals to us, Paxton slammed the Wes-style octaves in the organ trio format for his solo.

Organ jazz is in season. We have the work of Jason de Couto including Organ.ic Chemistry and hits with guitarist Alvin Brendan. The weekly run at District Bar Restaurant that started with Weeds and de Couto as an offshoot of Frankie's has now kept charging with Arvind Ramdas' trio there this past week. And of course we have the Nightcrawlers. As the turbulent outro of "Go Ahead" calms and fades, this group sounds chiller, more listening and less dancing, than those other groups.