Go see James Farm tonight/tomrrow ‘cause they were off the hook last night, just like last year: super hero players, rock star musicians, jazz virtuosos tearin it up. Good sized crowd in attendance, appreciative, calling for an encore, giving them a standing ovation. All players got their time in the limelight but also many moments of all four playing madly. Kept thinking about the interview with drummer Eric Harland as I listened to them, his comment:
“When we play a song with a structure, we have the ability to float off away from that or remain in the structure. But we all make the journey together and then whoever brings the song back, it’s not like there’s someone holding anyone back , like a ball and chain. You have the liberty to freely explore where you want to go. And we’ll go there with you and come back together. That’s the secret.”
You could hear that dynamic last night. Aaron Parks, the pianist, went some interesting places, very major key, even major pentatonic, although modal. His solo w/o the other players was super emotive. Harland too had a spot in the light w/o anyone else playing, super cool inventive drum solo. Joshua Redman tore it up of course, climaxing to a frenzied peak and then walking off to the side of the stage upon completing his statement. Didn’t catch the names of all of the compositions, but included “1981” by Parks into “If By Air” by Redman, “Unravel” by Parks, “Coax” by Matt Penman, “Pollywog” by Redman, “Chronos” by Parks and a couple more I might have missed. Most of these are on their record, which is on Nonesuch, kinda cool to see that label signing these guys.
If you are a fan of jazz, get yrself to Jazz Alley Wed/Thurs of this week to catch a band at the top of their game.
Posted by flotz
Tuesday, February 08, 2011 |
Super group of players at Jazz Alley right now in a rare configuration that may not be seen again. Known as Spectrum Road, Jack Bruce, John Medeski, Vernon Reid and Cindy Blackman (Santana) played last night at Jazz Alley. It is in tribute to Tony Williams Lifetime, who Bruce played with back in the day. They play again tonight. If yr a fan of aggressive jazz fusion of the sonically mind bending variety, go! (For a little more of the back story about the band and Tony Williams, check this article out.)
Saw last night’s late set and they tore it up. Cindy Blackman is a titan on the drums. She walked onstage wearing jeans, leather jacket, carrying her purse and then proceeded to rip it up all night long. She unleashed on the kit, letting Bruce hold the foundation while she went off. She’s fierce – Reid commented as much when he introduced the band. Most of the songs were wild rides, psychedelic, textured, syncopated, these monster players all contributing to a heady stew. Didn’t catch all the compositions, but were tunes both by Jan Hammer and Larry Young. Bruce sang a couple times, once weird incantations that were maybe Gaelic, maybe something else. Reid is such a shredder. Occasionally you could he and Blackman lock in and go off. Medeski can coax crazy sounds out of his keys, adding mad texture to stew. Final song was less challenging on the ears, a groove that let them funk it out. Came back out for encore and played a Miles Davis tune from In A Silent Way.
Here’s a pic of Reid’s pedals – look at the spread of digital effects boards -- not just analog pedals for him!
Pearl Django with Martin Taylor was a sound feast. Their two hour set was at once captivating and entertaining, laid back yet complex and nuanced, with lots of interaction between the players. They have a six night stand at Jazz Alley, so if you are a lover of jazz, would highly recommend catching these guys.
The set started with Pearl Django sans Taylor, opening with a Cole Porter tune. Taylor then came out and joined the band and they played two of his compositions. The band nailed all of them – clearly they were ready to play with Taylor. They then two Django Reinhardt tunes, riffing like mad, and then a Pearl Django song – cool to hear Taylor riffing atop one of their compositions. Pearl Django then left the stage, letting Taylor do his solo thing. He is stunning as a soloist. His first song was gorgeous as it moved around, so many harmonic complexities and layers of tonality, but ultimately melodic and emotive. Then, he played "They Can't Take That Away From Me" which, if you closed your eyes, you would be convinced it sounded like two guitars the way he separated the melody from the chording so adeptly. He is a monster guitarist.
The violinist, Michael Gray, returned to the stage and played a duet with Taylor – "Jive at Five" -- a tune that Taylor played with Stephan Grappelli. After that, the rest of Pearl Django returned and played a couple more tunes, including a Charlie Chaplin tune, said to be one of Michael Jackson's favorites (?!).
Taylor's playing was mesmerizing. His solos were brilliant, never predictable, everything from single note wizardry to crazy chord voicings to who knows what. His accompaniments to Pearl Django were fascinating, adding depth and unexpected harmonics to their sound. Check out this interview with him here as he talks about the notion of storytelling through his playing. He's also a storyteller between songs, pretty funny guy.
Loved the accordion player, David Lange. His solos had a lot of character, loopy, playful, surprising.
Check out some of Taylor's music here:
Caught The James Farm at Dimitriou's Jazz Alley featuring Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman, and Eric Harland. They played all originals, different compositions by different members of the band. Songs with names like "Pollywog," "Goats," "Voyager," "Startalk" and "Cartoon." Stellar players. Songs morphed, changing tempos, dynamics, covering vast sonic territories. Occasionally pianist and saxophone would pick up the same line, play some wicked head (or tail as it were) and you suddenly saw the structure admidst the fluidity of the sound.
Some songs were surprising in their straight-up-ness, the drummer playing with the beat instead of around it. Don't hear this too much among jazz monsters like these guys. It felt odd, to hear staight up beats and simpler progressions right after off-the-richter compositions of interwoven syncopation. But even during these straight up moments, someone would bust out, either rhythmically or a-melodically. The pianist in particular was all over strange transpositions and non-conforming scales.
Whoever was on the lights did a good job, these brief fadeouts between songs to switch colors. Usually don't think about lights and jazz, but this lighting was good, subtle yet dramatic.
Here's a shot of the drummer from a show in Milan earlier this year. He was wearing shades at the Jazz Alley show too -- must be his deal.