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Noah Preminger Quartet takes audience on journey

Astrid Lium | 3/1/2011, 6:54 p.m.
Noah Preminger and his band perform at Scullers Jazz Club....
Noah Preminger and his band perform at Scullers Jazz Club. Shelly Runyon

Noah Preminger has a lot of love to give. After introducing his band for the third time during his Feb. 23 performance at Scullers Jazz Club, he offers appreciation to his patrons, as well. “Thank you for being an awesome audience,” he says in his soft-spoken, baritone voice. “Really, really awesome.”

With his shaggy mane and big, blue eyes, the 24-year-old tenor saxophonist exudes youthfulness and innocence. He is by far the youngest person on stage, if not in the entire club. However, Preminger’s voice and musical talent embody maturity beyond his years.

He expresses and invokes as much emotion in person as he does in the recorded ballads which define his recently released album “Before the Rain.” Preminger’s quartet, now on tour to promote the album, captivated the crowded Boston club with a 75-minute show.

Drummer Matt Wilson started the set with a lively solo in “K,” a song from the new album. Eventually, pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist John Hebert and Preminger join in, albeit in different tempos, shifting the focus from individual strengths to a more collaborative effort.

The ebb and flow of this song sets the stage for the rest of the show. Each member of the quartet plays in his own realm while contributing to the group performance. Musical juxtapositions, which initially seem disconnected, ultimately enhance the chemistry of the four performers.

“K” seamlessly segues into the second song “Toy Dance,” which makes the two separate pieces feel more like an extended jam session. Though well rehearsed, the song exudes spontaneity, even occasional disjointedness.

However, the four ostensibly disparate musicians return to the group and offer a more unified performance by the third song, “Before the Rain.” Preminger closes his eyes and sways while playing this poetic labor of love, as though in a trance.

After promoting his CD with a sheepish grin, Preminger explains the significance of “Before the Rain.” He set the song to a poem written by Ruth Lepson, a poet and former teacher of his at The New England Conservatory of Music.

The band continues to pay homage to their musical influences with a rendition of Thelonious Monk’s “Four in One.” Bubbly, rhythmic and lively, the group focuses on musical unity with this piece. Even during Wilson’s drum solo, the others look on in admiration, exuding a genuine camaraderie, equally evident off stage.

Hebert enjoys his five minutes of solitude in the spotlight, plucking away at his bass in “Street Woman.” Preminger crouches to increase visibility of Hebert’s performance, watching as intently as the rest of the audience.

By the end of the show, each musician has a chance to shine and the four reunite to wrap up the night with a collaborative bang. The jam session resumes with increased intensity in the final song “Quickening.”

“They all come from an unbelievable history in their careers,” says Preminger of his band members. “I have the highest respect for them as musicians and as people.  Individually, each of them has a great sound, amazing intuition, and play with extremely big hearts with a lot of love.”

Both Kimbrough and Hebert appeared on Preminger’s first album and the trio have performed together for more than three years. Wilson is newer to the quartet, having joined about a year and a half ago.

“We, plain and simple, just work very well together,” Preminger says. “It meshes perfectly. We love pretty melodies and seem to create pretty music together effortlessly.  That’s why I love my band so much.”