By Andrew Gilbert
In the mid-1970s, Berkeley High was brimming with so many ambitious and talented jazz musicians that Peter Apfelbaum launched his stylistically expansive 17-piece Hieroglyphics Ensemble by drawing on the ranks of his fellow students.
Saxophonist Jessica Fuchs Jones was part of that ferociously creative scene, and since her start with the Hieroglyphics she’s continued to develop into a staggeringly accomplished improviser. Versed in various free-jazz idioms through her work with jazz giants like Joseph Jarmen, Cecil Taylor and Don Cherry, she’s also fluent in tightly structured postbop styles and various Afro-Caribbean rhythmic systems.
Since the late 1990s Jones has been based in Brooklyn with her husband and co-bandleader, saxophonist and fellow Berkeley High alum Tony Jones. For her appearance Saturday at Freight & Salvage however she’s performing with French horn master Mark Taylor, a longtime collaborator who played on her excellent albums “Nod” and “Word” (both on New Artist Records).
One of only a handful of musicians who have managed to effectively wrangle the unwieldy horn into jazz contexts, he possesses a beautifully burnished tone and a vast sonic palette. Together, Jones and Taylor explore original compositions that investigate the blurry line between freedom and structure.
It’s bracing music unlike any other ensemble on the scene, full of bristling energy, soft brass tones and boundless soul. The superlative South Bay rhythm section tandem of bassist John Shifflett and drummer Jason Lewis round out the quartet.
Andrew Gilbert lives in west Berkeley and covers music and dance for the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and East Bay Express.