The Respect Sextet, a group of six musicians from New York City, put on a show in the Geneva Room at Hobart and William Smith Colleges on Thursday February 6th. To reduce the performance to “putting on a show” would be an injustice to the group. Their perfected musicianship poured out of every number but the numbers did not serve the purpose of mere entertainment. A casual listener, looking for pleasing melodies and an easy to access sound, did not find what they were looking for in the set that the Sextet played. Complex rhythmic ideas layered on top of each other, kept tense by syncopated beats and a reluctance to fall into a comfortable groove. As a whole the Sextet impressed with their raw skill and their ability to perform composed pieces and make the songs feel as though they were being spontaneously created.
The entrance of the drums within the opening seconds set the pace for the entire set. Sporadic, terse yet still energetic; the groove hinted its presence often but only fully materialized on a few isolated occasions. However, the absence of a distinct and blatant groove did not cause any absence of movement or drive to the songs. Every piece moved flawlessly from beginning to end and even in moments that may not have been sonically pleasing they kept the listener on the proverbial edge of their seats. Snare hits flashed into bars at seemingly random intervals causing the listener try and find his or her own order within relative chaos. Melodies teased in and out of the mix without reprieve until releasing either in a dynamic crescendo or a soothing solo. The juxtaposition of a soft and smooth jazz vibe to that of a more anxious feel kept ears engaged and excited, even about disorienting harmonies.
The individual musicians in the group never tried to take control of a piece. Cohesion and tight feel reverberated even from complex moments with everyone playing separate rhythmic lines. The intensity of their ability to play together came to a head with rests that flawlessly cut absolute silence into the middle of building parts. Even without an obvious pulsing in many pars from the rhythm section, the drive never completely vanished. Moments transformed instantly into completely different parts and the variety of all of this material kept the performance fresh. Even if at times it got a little overbearing to the listener, the hook of gorgeous saxophone melodies and beautiful horn solos kept the listener satisfied.
An innovative contemporary jazz group consisting of six incredibly talented musicians, The Respect Sextet is a name to keep in mind. Capable of pushing the horizons of a genre already without clear borders, this group has the capability of creating even more incredible compositions that transport the listener from discomfort to one of the most soothing and satisfying grooves that jazz has to offer.