One of our trees fell over as we were preparing go downtown for the first night of Jazz Fest. It took down a utility pole and snapped all of its wires. We decided to stay home. It was an easy decision because we could not find an act that interested us.
Fulton’s parents played Charlie Parker for her when she was still in the womb. And when she popped out they asked the nurses to play Bird for her in the nursery. She absorbed it all, found a bass player and drummer she likes and has played with them for twenty years now. I thought it was a little odd how they set up so she faces away from her band but they played beautifully. She had a sultry voice, a great choice of songs and a perfect touch.
We have seen/heard Ravi Coltrane a couple of times and he always manages to fill the big shoes of his parents. He is a great player and may be mellowing a bit, he’s not so determined to blow the roof off the place. He always has a great band and this time the trio included Jonathan Blake who we saw at Hochstein with Tom Harrell and Esperanza Spalding. He sets his drums up low, everything waist high, and he played two snares, one crisp and the other sloppy. “Hum Drum,” introduced as” a tune written by a trumpeter friend,” was completely engaging as a song. For the rest of their we just sat back and enjoyed the ensemble’s virtuosity.
This Dutch trio of voice, guitar and percussion was a joy to hear. Playing in the former Lutheran Church, now Glory House, they performed with the house lights up, an odd atmosphere for such a dreamy, improvisational performance. At times they were so quiet the vocalist could whisper and the click of Fred San Felipe’s digital camera was audible above the band. The drummer played all manner of bells and shakers. I imagined him trying to get through Customs with it all. The guitar played never sounded like he was playing guitar and still managed to create a lush dreamy sound. This band was a real treat.
Why? This quartet, led by the Finish bass player, Kaisa Mäensivu, could have been so good. They were all great players, perhaps too good, because they couldn’t resist adding flourishes to everything they played. This can’t be for musical reasons. It doesn’t make sense. When doll-up everything the song suffers. This became clear early on because every time one of the instruments dropped out the band sounded better and they sounded best when it was just the bass player.
Day 5 we decided to stay home. Again we couldn’t find anything that interested us. We aren’t that fussy. Really.
Arturo O’Farrill, son of Chico O’Farrill, brought a quintet to Kilbourn of trumpet, bass, drums and congas. Sophisticated Cuban rhythms propelled songs full of twists and turns while the trumpet player drove the bus with inventive ways of developing themes. We’ve been watching reruns of old tv shows at home and I felt like I was watching the best Hawaii Five-0 show ever.
Joonas Haavisto’s trio at Glory House was gentle, dreamy and very cinematic. Apparently Joonas Haavisto has done a few soundtracks. We read that the trio has been together for ten years but I would never guessed that. They played on their toes as if they were experiencing the composition for the first time. After the show Peggi told him that his songs went somewhere. He liked that.
The Big Lazy, a three piece instrumental combo with guitar, stand up bass and drums, reminded me of the Raybeats, a group we saw Max’s a long time ago. In fact they sound like a long time ago, an idealized time when things were simple and fun. They’ve landed some tracks on tv shows and that seems like a perfect spot for them.
We’ve heard of Tuck & Patti for years but have never heard them so we found a couple seats in the front row at Temple Theater, formally Heaven, where we seen Yellowman and Grace Jones back in the day. They are a couple in life and have played together for forty four years now. This is apparent in their incredibly comfortable stage presence. I felt like we were visiting them in their home. They amazed me with their ability, as a duo, just voice and guitar, to pull off songs that other singers would require an orchestra for. Their version of “Heaven Down Here” was the best thing we have heard at the Jazz Fest.
“Let’s bring Heaven on down
I don’t want to wait for angels
Let’s bring Heaven down here”
Jochen Rueckert Quartet is a drummer driven and when the drums aren’t too busy the guitar player picked up the slack.
When I was a freshman in college there were cool rock bands and then there were frat rock bands. Instead of skinny shaggy haired guys the frat rock bands looked clean shaven and healthy. We were interested to see what the Hyatt Ballroom was like as a venue so we stopped in here for a few minutes. Huntertones were doing a Stevie Wonder song. To my ears this was Frat Jazz.
Immanuel Wilkins Quartet was cool but a little too frantic. My attention kept getting diverted to the drums and his display of independence of each limb. Maybe it was just youthful energy but their material sounded cluttered for no real good reason. I couldn’t even tell what the bas player sounded like because they rarely broke it down.
Everything about the Sunna Gunnlaugs’ Trio was familiar. We saw them exactly ten years ago in this same venue. I took a few notes during the show and then Peggi looked up what I wrote ten years ago. Exactly the same thing. Gunnlaugs is way melodic. And maybe because they have been playing together for ten years they leave plenty of room in their arrangements. There is no overplaying, every note and drum beat is purposeful. This was a beautiful way to finish the jazz festival.