Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: All that Jazz

Monday, July 24, 2006

All that Jazz

There's nothing like live music! Especially live Jazz! I spent the weekend at the Santa Fe Jazz Festival. Amazing stuff.

Friday night began with the Newport Jazz Allstars. Now, my favorite kind of jazz is the old-fashioned pass-it-around improvization. But it's a bit much with a 9-10 piece band. A quintet maybe. Quartet is the best. However, there was an amazing Clarinest there that made the show worthwhile.

Saturday night began with a surprise. The Brass Band I'd gone to see had a family tragedy and didn't show. So, I balked a bit when a blind guy walked onto the stage and sat at the piano. I had come to see a 12-piece brass band! However, my skepticism was quickly replaced by awe. I am continually amazed by the power of the individual performer. To hold the audience in the palm of your hand and to change their hearts and minds with your voice and your presence. It's so powerful to witness. It's my favorite way to perform and the most moving shows I've ever seen have been in this genre. Anyway, this guy basically gave us a history of jazz: beginning with the old spiritual hymns, moving on to rag time and then be-bop and finally one of his own pieces that was just amazing.

He was followed by Los Hombres Caliente. And were they hot! Oh man. This guy could play the trumpet and his band was equally talented. Brilliant. I highly recommend them.

Last night was Branford Marsalis and his band. They are tight and have been playing together for years. The drummer, Watts, is exceptional and they are all brilliant performers and composers. I especially loved the piece written by the pianist called Hope. I've seen them in Seattle as well and they always put on an intense if fairly short show. Blackzilla was an especially intense piece. Like a wall of sound. If I had one criticism of Branford and his band it's that they do put up a wall and seem somewhat veiled from their audience. They are very intimate and tight with each other on stage, joking and talking. But as an observer I feel left out, not included, which for a live music show is disappointing. I want to feel engaged and pulled in. Excellent craftmanship is always amazing to witness, but to have the skills and pull the audience in, is genius. Still all in all, I'm going to buy their CD, especially if I can find the cut 'Hope.'


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