Motor City Day 3/4
The third day in Detroit was very interesting. At the beginning of the day, we went to hear Loren Schoenberg talk about the newly found and partially processed Bill Savory Collection. Included in this newly found collection(if you haven’t heard) are hundreds of brilliant recordings created by the late sound engineer Bill Savory from the 30s to the 50s. Recordings of Lester Young playing live with Roy Eldridge, Louis Armstrong with Fats Waller, Billy Holiday singing “Strange Fruit” live for a radio show, and live broadcasts of the Chick Webb orchestra with a seventeen year old Ella Fitzgerald. Of course the jewel is a live recording of Coleman Hawkins playing Body and Soul in 1939.
We in the audience only got to hear snippets of the music, as Loren was obligated to not show entire tracks. He said many times, however, that if it was up to him, he’d give all of the stuff away free, because there was no money to be made from this music. In a fit of paradox, he also stressed that although these records were the most interesting things he had heard for years, that it is always more important to go see live music, because that’s what the music is at its core.
After Loren I did a bit of a round trip around the premises. I checked out Curtis Fuller just to say that I had seen him, and then went to see a Luciana Sousa with Romero Labumbo. There is something about solo Brazilian guitar that is just great to listen to, and depressing for piano players. Pianists just can’t recreate that feel(at least not that I’ve heard), and it’s such a great thing to listen to and feel. I liken it to the Guitarist’s version of stride, that great solo feeling that is almost impossible to duplicate on any other instrument.
Regina Carter was after that, which I wasn’t so fond of. Jazz violin has its own set of problems, which I’ll detail some other time. Post-Regina I headed over to the tain’s blindfold test. He killed it, I believe you can download the full thing HERE. I love blindfold tests. I didn’t do too bad myself, although I was out of character, completely screwing up the older pianists and nailing the new.
Then was one of my personal favorite concerts, Aaron Diehl(who I’m waiting to see as I write this, coincidentally). He is the youngest person I’ve heard who’s band is more concerned about feel than anything else. He is not by any means a badass NYC pianist, although his chops are through the roof. He’s concerned with class and subtle grooves. A bigger post will follow on Aaron one day, although I’m studying with him so talking about him is a bit weird. I will say that for a killing 330 bpm swing feel, I would choose Yasushi Nakamura and Lawrence Leathers in a heartbeat. Also, my festival buddy Wes Anderson was there, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. We had been hanging at the jam sessions the nights previous, and we always seem to hang during Jazz festivals, be they Cleveland or Detroit.
The end of the night was yet again very drum-centric. The first set was Tain with Christian McBride. I was looking forward to this show, with Marcus Strickland on Sax, but the presence of young Lawrence Fields kind of killed it for me. Now Lawrence is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, and he’s a damn fine piano player(He played Senor Mouse with Warren Wolf the day before and absolutely killed it 100%. I was shocked), but he was out of his league that night, and I’m sure he’d agree. As a listener, it’s annoying to know that within a stones throw were Geri Allen, Orrin Evans, and Jason Moran, and they used Lawrence Fields. Of course if I am ever in Lawrence’s shoes, you better damn well believe I’ll be happy to play the gig. Letting young people play is one of the most important things there is in the music. It must be hard as an older musician who knows that to balance how fun it must be to play with people at your caliber or above with teaching the young and creating more brilliant players. During the last tune, however, Lawrence kicked into high gear and it was one of the best songs of the festival.
The final concert of the day was Joe Lovano, with his UsFive ensemble. The mighty Otis Brown III is in that band, one of my favourite drummers out there. That band has two drummers, the other being Francisco Mela. If you want to make it a sports analogy, Francisco was on offense, and Otis was on defense. Francisco dropped bombs and rhythmically complex figures, while Otis created grooves and textures for the band to rely on.
Seeing that band was really interesting. It wasn’t like a show, per se, more of an experience. Older musicians of Joe’s age and older sometimes don’t announce anything until the end or near the end of the set, and the effect created from a performance perspective is an intense focus on the music itself. Never once during the concert was I distracted by thoughts of “oh wow, that’s Joe Lovano, what a nice guy” or “I’ve never heard of that piano player, I should look him up”. It demanded to be focused on.
The tunes were totally interesting, with long, extended solos for Joe, with the rest of the band joining in and giving their two cents whenever appropriate. It was great. I’m not sure if I’d enjoy it on a CD as much(the CD I’ve heard is much more truncated). I’m glad I saw it, and if I ever get to be friends with Joe, I’m going to ask him about his thinking behind using two drummers. I’m sure that he has an idea, because his band sounds as if it’s on the cusp of something great.
On the fourth day, I for some reason booked an early flight and couldn’t see Gary Burton or Common(yes, I desperately wanted to see Common). I also got surrounded by Secret Service agents and couldn’t make my flight due to Obama’s visit. If he holds me up again, I’m not voting for him again.
LOTS AND LOTS of shows this week. Posting during real life is hard…
I’ll post soon on Marion McPartland.
Ted Panken: And I bet that Hank Jones has played on 22,000 pianos in his day!
Hank Jones: Actually, 23,000.