Highlife

Pink earth art on filled in Inner Loop

I thought it was interesting that people pulled right out onto the filled-in Inner Loop to park for free last night. The city was packed for the last night of Jazz Fest. Tonight was for the backup musicians, David Bowie’s Blackstar band at Xerox and Bruno Mars backup band at one of the outdoor stages. I’ve kept track of the acts we saw here and posted some notes below.

We started with the Donny McCaslin Group, a four piece, who sounded really great in the Xerox auditorium. The keyboard player has a big role in their sound and he had plenty of unusual sounds but his Mopho x4 was a little overbearing. And there was a little too much four-on-the-floor from the drums for my tastes. I really liked the sax player’s playing. Peggi talked to him after the gig about his EarthQuaker effects. The band’s new record is based on their experience working with David Bowie and they played an instrumental version of Bowie’s “Lazarus.” It was the best song they did.

The trio over at the Lutheran Church was led by the drummer. Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity had a light airy sound but they played fast and furious. The drummer soloed with brushes. The sax player played tenor and soprano and both at once. The bass played reminded me of Charlie Haden. They played so well together it was quite amazing.

We stopped in Christ Church to hear a bit of Tessa Souter. I was glad to see Billy Drummond in the drum chair. Souter sounds like a really good lounge singer. I don’t mean that as any kind of slight. I would love to be stuck in a hotel bar somewhere or on a cruise ship and have the Spanish guitar, the double bass and Billy’s drums backing her chanteuse show. They weren’t serving drinks in the church though.

We ran into my brother the other night and he was disappointed because there was no band in front of the University Club. He comes down for the free stuff. He likes blues and he usually finds something he likes there. Tonight there was a band there and they were doing James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” when we walked by.

The guitar player in International Orange at the Little Theater was really great. He played all kinds of fingerpicking, slide and whammy bar stuff. He sounded a bit like one of those African Highlife players. I kind of wish he had a different band. The drummer was a little heavy handed and the electric piano just didn’t sound that good with the guitar. And the bass player certainly didn’t need two five string basses. They did a Pat Methany song and something off Keith Jarrett’s “Belonging” but the guitar player’s stuff was the best.

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