Northcoast Jazz Collective - Changing Times
by Harvey Pekar
It’s tough, especially in a not particularly jazz friendly city, to keep a quartet with strong post-bop
influences going, but that’s what The Northcoast Jazz Collective has done. This is their second CD-more
power to them for persevering. The Collective contains Dave Frank, tenor and soprano saxes and flute,
Dan Maier, piano, John Gallo, bass and Mark Grey, drums.
Ten of the eleven tunes here are originals written by Frank, Maier and Gallo. Some of the more
interesting pieces include Maier’s Latin influenced “Spring Day” and his ¾ piece “Grey Sky, White Light”.
Gallo contributes “Changing Times,” during which the tempo is steady but appears to be varied due to the
changing playing of the rhythm section, and the attractive ballad “Waitin’ for You.” “La Pasionara,” by
Charles Haden, on which there’s free improvisation, closes the CD.
Maier, a veteran of many years on the Cleveland jazz scene, can be heard at the top of his game,
blending the influences of several pianists including Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea. His solos are both
pretty, note his graceful phrasing and light touch in the upper octaves, and powerful. His fine time and
excellent technique allow him to play very long phrases and double time brilliantly. He comps well for
everyone including himself. Maier is a world class talent, but, unfortunately, there are many world class
talents who aren’t able to make a living playing jazz, so Dan has a day gig.
Frank turns in energetic, emotionally charged work. I like him best on tenor sax, although he’s an agile
soprano man and flutist. He says he’s been influenced most on tenor by Michael Brecker and Joshua
Redman, but doesn’t sound that much like either. He has a raspy edge on his tone and uses upper
register screams often, which indicates that he’s been marked by r&b players, and indeed he plays in a
Bruce Springsteen cover band where he emulates r&b tenorman Clarence Clemons. He’s an inventive
player who generally constructs his solos cohesively. Note also the intensity of his work on “Waitin’ for
You.” And Frank also has one of the biggest soprano tones I’ve heard since the emergence of John
Coltrane on that instrument.
Not only does Gallo do a solid job in the rhythm section, he solos imaginatively, playing with good
continuity. He’s a tasteful, musical performer and would be an asset to any post bop band. His rhythm
section mate, drummer Grey, performs economically and thoughtfully, but with sufficient power to drive the
band. He tries to avoid playing the high hat in a preset way, using it unpredictably. And he gets a nice
sound out of his kit, which he’s assembled over the years by purchasing vintage equipment.
As mentioned above, Cleveland is not exactly a jazz capitol, but the Northcoast band has been doing
relatively well commercially. Its current personnel has been stable for the last two years, and the group is
finding enough gigs to survive. The future looks pretty bright. Grey notes,”It’s a situation where it’s
growing. Once we can get through the door (get to display their talent to club owners and audiences) we’
ve been accepted. We’re taking it a step at a time and steadily getting more work.”
That’s good news for like-minded jazz outfits. The Northcoast Collective has shown that there is a way to
build the jazz audience here, and as their fortunes improve so can the prospects of other gifted
performers in the Northeast Ohio area.