Pleasant surprise: Maiden gig makes fans smile

Post Modal Collective
at Orbit
Sunday, November 17

Flipping through this week's calendar, I noticed a newcomer to the Sunday night slot at Orbit: The Post Modal Collective. The name seemed somewhat presumptuous; I wondered if I'd be forced to write a harangue on How a Wishful Appellation Can Be a Bad Thing if You Are a Mediocre Band. Given the fact I'd never seen their name in print before, I worried I'd be confronted by a group of world-beat wreckers, or worse yet, theory heads... the types who gaze languidly from Starbucks windows, paraphrase themselves in conversation, and play their instruments smugly, out of tune.

Shortly before 11, I stepped out of the Norwegian chill into a room warm with people andgasp-­ surprisingly good music. The size of the crowd had thermally regulated the temperature to a comfortable 65, and the folks were cheering on what turned out to be one of the finest jazz groups I've seen in Charlottesville. I was happy.

Pumping the crowd for information provided some surprising facts. The Post Modal Collective is, for the most part, made up of UVA students who banded together under the encouragement and mentorship of a professor in the music department. Several months of rehearsals led up to this event, their first gig.

I couldn't detect any shaky nerves or first-time jitters; the group moved along in a relaxed concentration, rarely referenced their sheet music, and snapped confidently into new time signatures and complicated scales. The bulk of their instrumentation excused the use of the word "Collective"; the PMC incorporated drums, upright bass, guitar, trumpet, tenor sax, alto sax, and electric piano.

The sound was aggressive and, at times, pleasantly acidic, when sharp tones rang in unison off the brass. Although all the members sounded like veterans, the only face I recognized was Matt Wyatt, the fantastic drummer from the short-lived free jazz trio, Edamame. Hearty applause followed each solo; looking around, I noticed the loudest support came from the local jazz community– John D'earth and saxophonist Josh Dehl, among others-­ a good indicator of the staying power of a Post Modal future.

Although all of these young guys can probably recite the circle of fifths by heart, their knowledge hasn't mired them down in convention. I enjoyed their candid, creative delivery. They managed to make the nod to past idioms a pleasurable experience, not a chore.