The show with Tain and Geri made me smile more than any show I’ve been to in the last couple of years. I’ve seen both of them live before, but seeing them together coupled with it being my first time to the Vanguard since I’ve moved here just made it amazing. Honestly, I’ve heard them both play better on record, but seeing them on a normal day live was ten times better than any record I’ve ever heard.
Tain thought so too, I think. He was smiling and catching Geri’s eye all night. When I saw Tain play with Hurst, he was all business, smiling once and a while, but always getting dead serious when the intensity went up. Saturday though, it was all smiles and laughs. When Geri played a complex polyrhythm or syncopation, it was as if she had just told a joke, both of them just cracked smiles and shook their heads. Kenny Davis, however, was very focused the whole night. I don’t know him that well, so it might just be his demeanor, but it the contrast was interesting to me.
There were many interesting things about this concert. The first being that they went significantly over time at the Vanguard, which is usually run like a Swiss watch. The second is that they played about six idioms in the set. The first tune was a McCoy-ish blues turned inside out and wrung out. The second tune they played was a straight eighths latin-y thing. The third was a motown tune by Smokey Robinson. The fourth was a ballad, tenderly. The fifth was a tune from when Geri played with Paul Motion and Charlie Haden. The tune after that was Space Odyssey, written by Marcus(he was on stage by tenderly. Best moment of the night: Marcus calls Space Oddysey. Tain starts hitting on the edges of his cymbals and doing that pressure point on the cymbal thing that you always hear drummers doing. Marcus turned around and said “what the hell are you doing man?” a little perplexed. “I was just trying to get some space going on” says Tain, perhaps a little worried that Marcus didn’t like it. “Oh. Go on then. I thought you were tuning”. Awesome). Then there was a Monk tune, Pannonica. Then a burning rhythm changes thing(nine tunes, see what I mean about going over?).
The last tune was a slow blues. Like, SLOW. Hearing Tain and Geri deal with this made me completely happy in every way. Tain can really play the blues. Also, Marcus, of course, killed it. The man’s been playing the blues a long time. It’ not great though, because he’s on oxygen now, so it’s a bit sad, even though he’s playing great. It’s just a grim reminder about the realities of his situation.
Oh, and trumpet buffs: Marcus can’t control his air anymore, because of his lung situation. Now, does he let his tone or dynamics suffer? Hell no, whenever he needs to crescendo, he just stores up air slowly and circular breathes through the phrase. I can’t think of anything more professional and badass than that. Life gives you lemons, you use your sixty years of experience as a farmer to breed lemons that taste like limes, which is what you wanted in the first place, dammit! So impressive. So worthy of a figure like Marcus.
So hopefully I’ll see more shows like that one, but I’m not sure I will. I’m off to see Jacob Sacks and Dan Weiss right now, the other side of the game. I’ll dig it, no doubt. But there was something intensely personal about that show at the Vanguard. Looking your dream in the face in extremely specific detail is a powerful experience.
Detroit wrap up to come, and a stupid good weekend of shows. Stay tuned.
Marcus: I told her to write this tune, and I wanted her to write something that the boys in her jazz class couldn’t play, because they were making fun of her. Then she wrote it, brought it in, and I couldn’t play it!(this is a classic Marcus-ism) Geri: Actually, you sight transposed it at tempo, so I beg to differ…