This concert distinguished itself by being based on Carroll’s composed music. Improvisation took place but did not lend itself to the forefront of the music making. The inspiration that the concert left behind was minimal. Exchanges between instruments existed but remained stilted; there was no "freedom of expression" because I do not believe that the musicians were practiced in letting go. The musicians were riveted to their sheet music. Each player’s solo demonstrated ability but each had to work too hard to keep the improvisation going. Carroll even at one point tried to push the envelope on his trumpet. But he just felt short. Only Formanek and Ak Laff dove into solos that demonstrated some gripping potential both in ability and focus.
The flow, the basic tempo of the concert, transpired ever so slowly. Spunk and even a hint of fire did not appear until the very last number, a tune which was familiar because it had been played all week on the radio to promote the concert.
I am used to jazz that has some guts to it and I am not talking exclusively about vanguard music. I have written about Josh Redman, Steve Lacy and some downright straight ahead music. Carroll’s quintet seemed to project only a flatness of line and a hint of atmosphere.
I appreciate that this UMass Jazz Series is presenting music chosen to suit a variety of tastes and I truly look forward to attending more concerts. I do not know to what I can attribute the sleepiness of this group. I simply expected more musicality from them as a whole unit. But, when I think about it though, the essence of Carroll stems from the fact that he creates music for the "background", as it were, given his wide experience in writing background music for plays. That is to say, that he does not write music for concert/gig performances. So that the shift in context, from the back of the stage to the front of the stage, in this instance, did not work successfully for him and his group.