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Posts Tagged ‘John Coltrane’

Note from the Editor: You are encouraged to read The Montreux Jazz Festival posts in order as they all contain information that pours meaning into the following posts:  Click here for  My Behind The Scene Tour and Overview of The Montreux Jazz Festival **

Miles Davis Tribute @ Montreux Jazz Festival

Even though the Montreux Jazz Festival had been raging for over two weeks, The Miles Davis Tribute was the first show of the festival for Josh and I, having just arrived in Montreux, Switzerland by way of Paris, France earlier that morning.

View from looking left out to lake Geneva or Lake LeMan

View from walk to Auditorium, while walking and looking left out to Lake Geneva aka Lake LeMan

This would be a very special performance for us and other Americans who were attending because this show was not making its way to the United States.   Sad but true, which made this a very special performance for jazz heads like Josh and I.

We walked from our hotel to the gorgeous Auditorium Stravinsky, about a 15 minute walk along the gorgeous Lake Geneva, or Lake Léman as the Swiss prefer to call it. You can read more about this gorgeous auditorium and its amazing acoustical design in my previous post titled My Behind The Scene Tour and Overview of The Montreux Jazz Festival!

Having been blessed with a amazing VIP package from the wonderful Sloane Family earlier in the year, we were so excited and didn’t know what to expect! We had already been greeted upon arrival to our hotel by a Festival representative and been given a goodie bag full of Mac Cosmetics, two festival tee-shirts, a dual-disc sampler CD, Missoni pamphlets and more.

View of festival sidewalk heading up to Auditorium Stravinsky at night!

Night view of festival sidewalk heading up to Auditorium Stravinsky, which is to the left of the white tent! The Lake is located behind me at this view.

We found our way to the Protocole’ Office where a most gracious staff took care of us.  Vivian, Josephine and Helena were beyond wonderful!!  Thank you ladies for your patience, giving us the best of care, making sure we weren’t kicked out of our booth by the stars and reminding us how hospitality should be handled.  New Yorkers need to recognize!  The hospitality in Switzerland is absolutely unmatchable.

We were given two slips of thick paper and orange wrist bands that served as entry to the box seats. We were shown the way to the top of the venue, led down a little hallway and placed into Box #4.  My magic number 🙂  There were only six boxes total as far as our floor was concerned. If they had more, I never knew about them or saw them.

Raging the Box Seat Shot!

Happy Box Seat Ragers!!

The below picture shows the stage from the left side box view.  We were just the mirror image, same spot but our box was situated to the right of the stage. It was a phenomenal view of the show, albeit far away.  There would be no front row raging during these performances.

Auditorium Stravinski

Auditorium Stravinski

The show was slated to begin at 8pm but we all know what that means.  Finally around 8:45pm, beginning fashionably late (pun intended and you’ll see why later), Claude “Funky Claude” Nobs, the fonder and general manager of The Festival, and a few staff members came out on stage to press festival merchandise. Claude led the pack, wearing multiple shirts, stripping away a layer at a time then throwing the shirts into the audience. Then came the introductions via Funky Claude.

The Miles Davis Tribute @ The Montreux Jazz Festival

The Miles Davis Tribute @ The Montreux Jazz Festival (C) Lionel Flusin

Miles Davis Tribute produced by Marcus Miller

Herbie Hancock – Keys
Wayne Shorter – Saxophone
Marcus Miller – Bass
Sean Christopher Rickman – Drums
Sean Christopher Jones – Trumpet

Pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter and bassist Marcus Miller are all alums of the school of Miles Davis, having all had the pleasure of playing with Davis before he passed.  The jazz great, whose statue stands proudly in a park next to Miles Davis Hall, performed 10 times at Montreux, the last time just two months before his death at age 65 in 1991.

Claude welcomes Marcus Miller (C) Lionel Flusin 2

Claude welcomes Marcus Miller (C) Lionel Flusin

Marcus Miller was introduced and came out in an all white suit and his signature black hat.  Herbie Hancock was introduced and came out rocking a MEGA Cosby Sweater to which Claude commented on how he liked it. Well, of course he did.  Claude Nobs only wears Missioni!  Yall know the “interesting” $1,000+ designs that looks like ugly sweater patterns? It’s my least favorite store on Madison Avenue and here is this dude who only wears that brand. He rocked every piece 🙂  It was made for Claude and all his fabulousness and, to be honest, I grew to like a few items during my trip.  Wayne Shorter was next and in the tradition of Davis, the trio has brought in two young musicians to work with them, trumpeter Sean Jones and the drummer Sean Rickman.

Sean Jones during The Miles Davis Tribute @ The Montreux Jazz Festival

Sean Jones during The Miles Davis Tribute @ The Montreux Jazz Festival

The two-hour concert, which stretched into the early hours of Thursday, was a highlight of the 45th annual Montreux Jazz Festival, “where Davis is still remembered for driving along Lake Geneva in a red Ferrari.”

Set List

Walkin’
Little One
Milestones
All Blues
Directions
It’s About That Time
Water Babies
Someday My Prince Will Come
Footprints
Put Your Little Foot Forward
Jean Pierre
Orbits
Dr Jeckyll

(encore)

Tutu
Time After Time

Marcus Miller (C) Lionel Flusin

Marcus Miller (C) Lionel Flusin

The five piece ensemble opened with “Walkin,” the title track of Miles Davis‘s 1954 album.  Herbie Hancock started the song out slowly, following through alternating from his piano and keyboards.  During his solo, his face made the deepest of connections with the notes and you could see it in the way he contorted his mouth and eyes with feeling.  There was gorgeous mournful trumpet and saxophone exchange between Sean Jones and Wayne Shorter respectively and then the “Blah, Blah, Blah” happened through “Little Ones” and “Milestones.”

During the Marcus Miller workshop the following day, a question was asked about the set list and how it was formed.  Miller spoke about how they picked the song, (which I will speak of fully in the Marcus Miller Workshop Post to follow this one next week).

He spoke about how they didn’t want to do the songs the same and it was when they began to have fun with the songs that the “Blah, Blah, Blah” would happen. It was the “Blah, Blah, Blah” that made this experience its own and where the beauty in the performance was meant to show itself.  So, during each song, the group would go off into “Blah, Blah, Blah” and that was when the magic happened.

Marcus Miller raged an amazing electric bass solo during “All Blues” as he curled his fingers into the strings, creating a gorgeous texture of sound. There was no guitar on stage, yet it was so tight, so jazzy and so full of notes and excitement that it filled the auditorium fully. During the “Blah,Blah, Blah” towards the end, Miller changed to a saxophone-looking instrument that layered a deep tone under the rest of the group.

Sean Jones and Wayne Shorter (C) Lionel Flusin

Sean Jones and Wayne Shorter (C) Lionel Flusin

During a swanky “Directions,” I notice movement in the box to my left.  I see Esperanza Spalding being sat down on the second row with a few of her people. At first, I didn’t think it was her but then who else rocks hair like that?  It took all my power not to geek out.  She is a musical goddess and we would be enjoying her performance only a few hours later for the Quincy Jones’s Global Gumbo, (another post that will be following this one shortly).

“Someday My Prince Will Come,” from the 1961 album recorded with John Coltrane, was beautiful.  This is one of my all time favorite songs.  A gorgeous song from Disney’s 1937’s Classic Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, it’s impossible not to feel something as a female while listening to this song.  My eyes immediately welled up and I know I was not alone in this emotional stirring of the soul.

Sean Rickman (C) Lionel Flusin

Sean Rickman (C) Lionel Flusin

Marcus Miller started off with a slow bass solo then Sean Rickman and Herbie Hancock took over the stage. I had never seen Rickman or so I thought.  He is actually the drummer from Garaj Mahal, a group I have not been able to see in a long time.  He caught my ear. Most of the time drummers are not the artists who catch my ears in a project like this.  He was superb and he looked to be having so much fun up there as his smile never once dropped, nor did his beat.

Then, a nice informative break in the show as Wayne Shorter engaged the audience with how the super group decided to approach this tribute.

Wayne Shorter during The Miles Davis Tribute @ The Montreux Jazz Festival

Wayne Shorter during The Miles Davis Tribute @ The Montreux Jazz Festival

During their first rehearsal, the five men did nothing but talk about how best to honor Miles’s spirit. They didn’t play a single note during the entire first rehearsal.  Miller would later say in his Workshop that during that time of revelation, they would try to outdo each other by seeing who could come up with the most obscure Miles tunes.  It was during this time, during this first rehearsal, that Miller said they became a band, before a single note was ever played between them.

“In preparing for these concerts,” Mr. Hancock said, “we had many conversations about the interests of Miles outside of music like boxing and cooking. He was arguably a master chef. It adds more dimensions to him. We’ll embrace his spirit by being in the moment and creating a new perspective, sometimes on known themes.”


While putting together their set list, the one thing the group didn’t want to do was “play in the style in which it was originally done because we figured Miles would hate that.” Miles was a man who always looks forward and so as they looked back at his music to play they knew that Miles would have wanted them to look forward, taking his music to new levels.

Let’s make it like a soundtrack to Miles’s life’!” “It doesn’t feel like 20 years, it feels like 4 or 5. Miles’s music is everywhere. This is dedicated to the spirit of Miles Davis, the most beautiful thing he gave us.” ~ Marcus Miller

They spoke on how they felt Miles had only been dead 4 or 5 years, not the 20 years  that we were celebrating tonight.  They felt, and I agree, that this was because of the fact that Miles’s music is still so very relevant today and the lingering spirit that resides in all the artists who played with him keep his spirit flowing through the scene and through the music.

Sean Jones (C) Lionel Flusin

Sean Jones (C) Lionel Flusin

Breaking into “Footprints,” Wayne Shorter related to the audience that this portion of the show would represent Miles’s childhood.   The songs were playful which made sense and the “Blah, Blah, Blah of this song became funky as the bass and horns led the pack.  During the song, Hancock transformed his keyboards into human noises, each key making a different sound consisting of hoots and hollers sound bites from James Brown that said “Come on,” “Groove,” “Yeah,” and cat calls and yelps. The “Blah, Blah, Blah” had taken over.

There was another song thrown in to the mix here that I just couldn’t get the name of.  Sean Rickman would later tell me:

“After ‘Footprints’ we play[ed] a swing tune that represented Miles’ “childhood”. I forgot the name of that tune. Then we did Jean Pierre.”

Marcus put down the electric bass and moved to the standup for “Jean Pierre” which changed the entire scenery of the sound in the room, almost big band-y.  I knew it was a song from later in Miles’s day.  If I could only remember the name.  The trumpets led the band during and the “Blah, Blah, Blah” of this song went on for minutes and ended in a standing ovation of the crowd.

Herbie Hancock (C) Lionel Flusin

Herbie Hancock (C) Lionel Flusin

Being on the big stage for this 5 piece band was perfect. The artists on stage lined up for a bow and it was tearful moment for me.  The music had been overwhelmingly different from anything I had expected to hear that night. I don’t think I have experienced such a tight and wonderful jazz performance.  The legends on that stage, the fact that it wasn’t being played in America, my appreciation for the moment, my appreciation for Miles; it brought tears to my eyes.

I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. The entire crowd was standing in ovation with respect for the super group who had just played the “Blah, Blah, Blah” out of the music! Taking the music to an entirely new level and doing EXACTLY what they had planned.  After the ovation, Hancock strapped on a synthesizer keyboard for the first encore: “TuTu.”

Marcus Miller @ Montreux Jazz Festival

Marcus Miller @ Montreux Jazz Festival

Hancock and Miller had fun during this tune, walking towards each other in the middle of the stage and Hancock bantered musically with each musician.  Each one playing a rip and Hancock coming back with his handheld. When it was Shorter’s turn, he blasted out a single note, laughter again erupted into the audience. All Wayne Shorter needs to play is a single note.  So amazing.

Once again, they maneuvered to getting off the stage but this time they were stopped by Claude Nops, who requested another song.  This time, the song that took us all by surprise, “Time After Time,” a song made famous by Cyndi Lauper in the 80’s, was played.

Marcus Miller was back on his deep saxophone and created a totally wormy sound from the instrument to take “Time after Time” to a different place.  Without Hancock playing the melody shortly after, one might not have recognized the song. I recognized it immediately. There was even a Star Wars tease from Shorter on his saxophone in there if you caught it.  Completely playful and unique.

Later, during his workshop, Marcus Miller would speak about how Miles Davis could take a super cheesy song or a song that most musicians might view as cheesy and find the beauty in it.  This was one of those songs.  Miller felt that ending with a song that Miles Davis revamped was a perfect ending to this tribute, showing us how he could be the master of anything.

“Marcus produced a great concert,” said Claude Nobs, founder of the Swiss festival now in its 45th year.

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Central Park's Summer Stage: Check it out!

Central Park's Summer Stage: Check it out!

When I first found out that Stanley Clarke would be performing for FREE in Central Park’s Summer Stage, I immediately thought two things.  One, I must get into that show.  Two, I knew exactly who would be my plus one.

McCoy Tyner (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

McCoy Tyner (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Working for the Parks Department, our partnership with the Central Park Conservancy allows for some really nice perks regarding Summer Stage performances.  So long as they are not benefits, I am able to plop onto the guest list of any show and bring a friend.  The cost of these perks are priceless to me.  (After this article I am moving onto the New York Philharmonic in Central Park….god, I love my job!)

Once I got on the list, I immediately invited my good friend, Nigel Hall.  Nigel’s first concert as a little boy was to see Stanley Clarke with his father.  My past connections to Stanley was strictly through my love for Fusion, which Nigel also shares.  Tonight was a lovely extension of  memories for both of us.  Those kind of moments are magical and it’s lovely to build on them.

The venue was set up with chairs in the front and blocked off sections for the “VIPs.”  I was rather early and I still didn’t have the ability to snag two seats. I only got one for myself and I hoped I could grab one later for Nigel.  The commotion over people Bogarting the seats and saving 10 seats at a time for people who hadn’t showed up was rather annoying.  If I had needed a seat immediately for a friend, I would have been in that commotion. Luckily, I was alone and accommodated haha.

Return to Forever

Return to Forever

I have never hidden the fact that I have a passionate connection to Fusion Jazz.  I have mentioned it numerous times in past articles.  Specifically, the group Return To Forever.  A group that defined Fusion and showcased some of the genre’s greatest talent.  Stanley Clarke is the bass player from that group.  Having seen Chick Corea at the Blue Note a few weeks earlier and having Al di Meola in town a few days later, the players of Return To Forever were spread out all over Manhattan and I was soaking it all up little by little.

On this semi-humid, sunny evening in Central Park, the Stanley Clarke Trio, featuring Hiromi, melted my brains.  However, not before McCoy Tyner Quarter, featuring Ravi Coltrane & Esperanza Spalding, geared us up!  OH MAN!!!

Francisco Mela (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Francisco Mela (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

The McCoy Tyner Quartet featured:

McCoy Tyner – Piano
Esperanza Spalding – Stand Up bass
Francisco Mela – Drums
Ravi Coltrane – Saxophone

Seriously, the McCoy’s set could and SHOULD be an article all it’s own.  However, I just wanted to sit back and relax for McCoy’s set.  I knew I would be all over the place mentally when Stanley came on stage.  So, I sat back, relaxed, didn’t take notes and just absorbed what was taking place on stage. I actually am seated directly behind the female taking the below video!

Esperanza Spalding (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Esperanza Spalding (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

The talent that was mind-blowing and the sounds were so eclectic and wonderfully brought together.  You had Afro-Cuban jazz composer and drummer Francisco Mela who was superb, locking down his drum solos each and every time and providing a wonderful session of beats for this insane jazz performance to groove too.  I can’t begin to describe his energy and talent.

I had never seen Esperanza Spalding before and I just wanted to BECOME her.  Commanding the center of the stage with all these great male musicians surrounding her, with this giant upright bass between her legs, biting her lower lip as she flew over the strings…IT WAS HOT!!  And it was almost impossible for me to not focus on her completely.  At 26 years old, her fingers move with the grace of an old soul and her sound parallels that. I mean come on…

Then we had Ravi Coltrane, son of John Coltrane, ripping apart the saxophone when his time came.  And this was just the opener…

Ravi Coltrane and Esperanza Spalding (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Ravi Coltrane and Esperanza Spalding (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

The opening band consisted of the second son of luminaries John and Alice Coltrane on saxophone, a bass player hand-picked by President Barack Obama to play in Oslo Hall at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, a drummer hailed as “one of the most important Cuban drummers in jazz” by Jazz Times, and the bluesy stylings of McCoy Tyner.  UNREAL!!!!  I am almost always a hater on opening bands.  But this was a real treat.  This was talent opening for talent and this is the kind of music and performance I prefer to see.  HOT DAMN!!!

INTERMISSION

And then, after all that energy had been put into us, preparing us for the INSANITY that was about to take place…we were put on hold.  There was now a change of plans.  The show had attracted such enormous response that the outside of the venue had been swarmed with people.  A gentleman got on stage and said:

“I have good news and better news. ”  The good news is that there are hundreds of people at the bottom of the hill who want to be part of this lovely evening of music.  The better news is that we are going to stop for about 20 minutes and ask that you utilize the space around you so that we can provide entrance to more viewers.”

Stanley Clarke (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Stanley Clarke (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

The venue was not even closed to being packed and I was in a chair so I wasn’t to worried.  At this point, Nigel was still in transit.  He had spent the day performing on free pianos all over the city.  Sadly, he missed one hell of a opener but his performances were well worth his delay getting to the show and you should check it out by clicking the link above.

Nigel arrived in plenty of time for Stanley’s set.  Perfect timing.  Two lovely gentlemen were sitting behind us wearing their Return To Forever shirts.  Nigel took their pictures on his phone!  We spoke of the coming Al Di Meola show at Highline Ballroom the following night and they already had their tickets.  Unfortunately, I was giving free tickets away through the Tiny Rager site but was unable to make it as I was heading to Phish that weekend.

After about half an hour delay, the stage started to buzz again and we were handed 2 1/2 hours of pure Jazz.  HELLZ YEAH!!!

The Stanley Clarke Trio:

Stanley Clarke – Bass
Ruslan Sirota – Keyboards
Ronald Bruner Jr. – Drums
Featuring: Hiromi Uehara – Piano

Hiromi (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Hiromi (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Stanley started the show off with Lopsy Lou.  Hitting us right in the face with the slaps of his bass and the snare drum tapping off the beat.  A great showcase of the bass and immediately I learned who the hell this Hiromi character was and what she was all about.  Some could say rager and some ragers might say showboat. Personally, I just have my jaw on the ground.

The words I want to use to describe her actions are as plain as SHE FREAKS THE F#@K OUT!!! Her entire body was involved, her entire mind was probably in outer space or in the keys…inside the piano…it is clearly an out of body experience for her when she plays.  There are no words strong enough to describe the insanity that is Hiromi when she plays for us.  Just take a look…and this doesn’t even scratch the surface of her raging…

At only 23 year old, Ronald Bruner Jr. blows my mind.  Beginning his professional career at the age of 15 at the Theolonius Monk Institute of Jazz, he has already played with huge Jazz legends.    His diverse drumming styles could be heard throughout the performance.

And then you had Stanley Clarke. The man of the hour.  If you closed your eyes, you felt as if you were listening to Stanley Clarke from 20 years ago.  He still has it.  Boy, does he still have it.  With his electric bass in hand, the group performed Charles Mingus‘s jazz standard, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. Hiromi once again let loose and RIPPED OPEN her solo with the power and ferocity of an attack dog.  Check it out…

Stanley moved to the stand up has for a Return To Forever song called No Mystery.  I believe this song was originally written by Chick Corea so Hiromi started off the song with her plinking keys.  Initially, there was no bass.  During this song, Stanley had some technical difficulties.  You heard people in the audience shouting that we couldn’t hear the bass.  Nigel and I picked up on it immediately and just watched Stanley handle it in his smooth nature. He sat there looking a bit frustrated but sitting calmly, smoothly, smiling at us, letting Hiromi fill in his blanks.

Stanley Clarke - Bass!

Stanley Clarke - Bass!

After some commotion on stage, Stanley throws his hands up and then we heard it.  The bass was fixed and Stanley was projected out to us once again.   Ronald Jr. wiped his face as Stanley thanked the Tech and proceeds to take his solo.  And man did he make up for those lost minutes.

While no one else was shouting or jumping out of their chair, Nigel and I proceeded to be moved by the music numerous times bringing us out of our seats and hollering like wild kids at the stage.  Sure, this was a jazz show.  We were surrounded by people who would have preferred silence and a nice seated audience but that is NOT what was going to be happening with us tonight.  This was powerful shit.  This is the stuff that made us move and you can forget the manners and civility that is supposed to come with these shows.  After the third time jumping up out of our seats Nigel shouts: “Go head Stanley.”  Man, this was such a change of pace from the FUNK.

Roland Jr

Ronald Bruner Jr. - Drums

The drums held it down while mic was changed on Stanley’s bass. Hiromi continued to rage the keys.  Nigel and I bickered over the antics Hiromi threw at us while playing.  The way that girl raged, she would most certainly  knock over that wine on the Temperpedic commercials. Nigel is from the old school of playing the keys and feel that those kind of shenanigans while playing are not necessary.  On the other hand, I felt that her playing was modern, new, fresh and would entice and energize the younger parts of the crowd who might be sitting there bored because their parents drug them to this show.

Ruslan

Ruslan Sirota - Keyboards

The next song was fast jazz with a Broadway bounce. Our real first taste of Ruslan on his Yamaha Motif.   He raged some insane fusion keyboards for a few min and Stanley cooly crushed it in the backdrop.  Such an unusual sound.

Nigel loved Ruslan so much more thne Hiromi but Ruslan truly didn’t bring the heat that Hiromi did and we both verbally voiced that wish.  We were  both out of our seats for part of his solo while the whole placed sat quietly.

Hiromi's kicks...

Hiromi's kicks...

Stanley felt it and we felt it in him.  So many faces while Stanley raged slap acoustic bass and then Ruslan FINALLY brought the heat but not moving even half as much as Hiromi.  There was absolutely no flair with this guy but he was clearly talented and GREAT!

Stanley switched to using a bow on the bass for Paradigm Shift.  A nice slow, slow start to the song.  A shifty song that bounced back and forth between chaos and sanity.  Pleasent vs wild.  Nigel points out: “He’s had that same part in his hair for 30 yrs.”  Ruslan’s legs shook so hard and Stanley plucked the bass so deep. I loved this song.  Ronald was fast and chaotic.

This song made me think of lights.  I imagined the lift show if there was one. Oh Stanley. As we watched him pluck those strings soooo very fast, we joked about how we bet his wife loves the way he plucks those strings.  The slow inclinations were impeccable.

Set list…Lopsy Lou, Goodbye Park, No Mystery, Black Narcisuss, Good Bye Pork Pie, Paradigm Shift

Our View of Stage!

Our View of Stage!

The Stanley Clarke Trio performance featuring Hiromi might just have to be one of my top 5 performances of 2010.  It is a style of music that resonates with me harder then Funk, harder then anything.  I was watching the show with someone who I knew was appreciating every single drop of sound that was coming from the stage and I loved that.  The weather had turned cool and lovely.  It was just lovely.  At the end of the performance Nigel and I just stared at each other and smiled.  What a perfect night of music.

City Parks Foundation’s Summer Stage

CareFusion Jazz Series

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Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez, Paul Motian, and Sp. Guest John Scofield @ The Blue Note (05.12.10)

The Blue Note, NYC

The Blue Note, NYC

I was completely FREAKING OUT!  110% shaking like a leaf with excitement.  My friend was standing next to me just kinda staring at me.  It was physically noticeable.  With a genuinely concerned look, she asks me if I am OK.  Honestly, I might as well been on 100 Five-Hour Energy Shots and crack.  I was on the verge of hyperventilating.  That is how ridiculously excited I was.

Chick Corea took The Blue Note by storm for two weeks, from May 4-9 and May 11-16.  Playing with a brand new project featuring Eddie Gomez on bass & Paul Motian on drums, Chick celebrated the lesser known works of Bill Evans, the project simply called Further Explorations of Bill Evans.

Bill Evans

Bill Evans

For those of you who need some schooling, Bill Evans was a famous, FAMOUS Jazz Pianist/Composer/Arranger who…

“influenced a generation of pianists including: Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John Taylor, Steve Kuhn, Don Friedman, Denny Zeitlin, Bobo Stenson, Michel Petrucciani and Keith Jarrett, as well as guitarists Lenny Breau, Ralph Towner and Pat Metheny.” ~Wikipedia~

In 1958, Bill Evans was a pianist in Miles Davis’ group.  Can you imagine?  I know Chick Corea and John Scofield certainly can.  Evans influence ran so deep with Miles, his talent so respected, that he wrote the liner notes for Miles Davis’ classic Kind of Blues; the best selling jazz album of all time.

Tonight, I got my chance to see two of my biggest musical heroes celebrating one of their musical heroes.  I found that exhilarating.  Of the 12 days Chick Corea played at The Blue Note,  I chose tonight specifically because John Scofield would be the special guest and I was geekin’ out.  Tonight’s Line Up:

FEATURING:
Chick Corea, piano
Eddie Gomez, bass
Paul Motian, drums
w/ sp. guest: John Scofield, guitar

The Blue Note

The Blue Note

At 69 years old, Chick Corea is still going strong.  Having become a fan of his music through my love of Fusion Jazz, Chick Corea has been on my radar for many, many years.  Most of you should recall Return to Forever, with it’s classic lineup of Stanley Clarke on bass, Al Di Meola on Guitar and Lenny White on drums.  If you haven’t heard of Return to Forever, you might want to stop reading and go check it out.  Seriously, get away from this article and go listen to the music instead of reading about it.  I don’t mind.

For weeks prior to his two week stint, Chick Corea was offering up free tickets to each of his shows through Twitter and via e-mail.  I entered twice a day, every day allowed, but alas, it looked as if I was doomed to pay the $65 for a table or $40 to stand at the bar.  Not a big fan of The Blue Note for these high prices but in this case, I would spend my savings account to see Chick and John play together in this intimate setting.  I mean, it was one of the world’s most famous jazz clubs, how could I complain?!

Stage Sign

Stage Sign with Eddie's bass below

The plan was to get there early and see if we could get a seat at the bar ($40) vs. getting a table ($65) plus a $5 minimum purchase (nothing there is under $7), plus tipping your waitress…you get my point.  Unfortunately, we just missed snagging a seat by one person. We were the first ones standing.  I took a trip upstairs, just figuring out they had restrooms and gift shop up there…and figuring out that this was where the Green Room was located.  I just don’t go to The Blue Note that often for shows so this was a fun discovery. Especially when I saw John come out of the Green Room and throw a smile my way.   People come from all over the world to stop in at The Blue Note, it’s gift shop stocked with all kinds of paraphernalia that  I wanted like the piano ashtray or the hanging poster of Lionel Hampton that isn’t even for sale.  When it does go on sale, my friend “E” and I will be fighting for it to the death.  After my explorations upstairs, we stand around for another 45 minutes.

Inside The Blue Note ~ Chick's Set Up

Inside The Blue Note ~ Chick's Set Up

Already weary from a long day’s work, standing in line outside for 30 minutes and another hour and a half inside, it didn’t take long for my friend to talk me into upgrading to a table so we could sit.  We had to wait until the rest of the reserved patrons were seated but we finally got a seat, in a decent spot for me to see Chick’s side view and John’s front view.  I was happy but, and this is a big but, we were HORRIBLY crammed into our seats, I was practically on top of my neighbor and I am a small little lady.  I felt like a sardine and my back was to the stage the way I was seated.  I turned and was grateful that I WAS a small human being and manipulated my way around to see the stage.  It is also about this time that I said screw the money and I made the MOST out of the awkward situation.  I ordered a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and a scrumptious Flat Bread Salad with Grilled Chicken.  So much for the $40 budget, I think I walked out with a $130 bill that night…so worth every penny.

The Blue Note Bar Sign

The Blue Note Bar Sign

The stage was set with Chick’s grand piano to the left, Eddie’s stand up bass in front of that, Paul’s drum kit raged the middle of the stage and to the right of the stage stood John Scofield‘s stool and music stand.  The scene was set and everyone was waiting.  When they came onto the stage the venue erupted in applause.  I scanned the room looking for someone younger then me and my friend. I was hard-pressed and it made me weary.  I wished there were more young people who are willing to learn from a real musician instead of what was on their radio stations and MTV…barf music.  The set list that night was kind of hard for me, I picked up on 5 out of the 8 songs.  It was hard to tell where one ended and another began.  Luckily Chick’s website had the set list:

SET LIST:
Diane
Stella By Starlight
Song #1
Little Rootie Tootie
My Foolish Heart
Someday My Prince Will Come
Bessie’s Blues
Peri’s Scope

Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez, and John Scofield @ The Blue Note

Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez, and John Scofield @ The Blue Note

Diane, a song by Erno Rapee and Lew Pollack, was fast and playful. A great opener, a great song to show case their talent immediately.  There was playfulness between John and Chick right off the bat.   John breaks into his first solo of the night.  What do you think it sounded like?  It was crisp and fast and he was up off the stool as if the music had lifted him right out!  This first song was easily 10 minutes, so long and lovely.  They each took their turn down the line soloing.  Chick was second and being that Erno Rapee was a virtuoso pianist, this song was written for Chick to rage it.  Then it was Eddie’s turn and then it got quiet.  Chick starts the twinkling on the keys…playing scales.  I can see his fingers with his head lowered and slowly Paul sneaks back in with the beat.  John gets up and out of his seat again as he plants another lucrative solo on us.  This was just the first song and I was satisfied.  Great wine, great food, great company, GREAT music.

John Scofield @ The Blue Note

John Scofield @ The Blue Note

Stella By Starlight is a jazz standard, written by Victor Young, that I recognized immediately, but couldn’t grab the name when Chick gave it to us later. Chick started off plinking the keys.  So very slow, Miles Davis’ version has horns but there would be no horns on stage tonight.  With soft taps on the cymbals, Paul joins the songs.  It all seemed so very My Fair Lady, very lounge-y.  Eddie’s bass joined in with slow pulls of his bow here and there, so light and timid.  Just a gorgeous song.

Chick stands up and introduces the band to the audience. There is massive applause for each member.  “These are brand new Bill Evans songs composed a while ago,” Chick says.  “Happy belated Mother’s Day. The first song was called Diane.  We are doing song with ladies in the title….ladies tunes. We will be doing a few Thelonious tunes…”  And the music continues…

Eddie Gomez and John Scofield @ The Blue Note

Eddie Gomez and John Scofield @ The Blue Note

Song #1 is beyond me.  I had no clue what this song was and I still don’t.   John’s face was contorted into a knot as he played.  The main vein of the song was John on guitar with Chick coming in sporadically on keys.  Chick stopped to take off his jacket, taking a turn to smile at the audience as his back was to half of us.  My wine finally comes.  Even better.

Pounding on the keys with Paul’s drum backing Chick, Little Rootie Tootie, a Thelonious Monk song, was next.  A cute song that reminds me of Charlie Brown cartoons for some reason.  The piano section is just exquisite.  Chick was working up a sweat and dried off his key with the towel.  But it didn’t end there.  John picked up the melody and using his towel, Chick made strokes across the piano from one end to the other making the sounds he needs to banter with John.  This was so cool and lasted for a good three minutes.  My focus then went to Eddie on bass, plucking away as Chick inserts his two cents here and then abruptly ending.  Monstrous applause.

Eddie Gomez @ The Blue Note

Eddie Gomez @ The Blue Note

My Foolish Heart, another jazz standard by Victor Young, was to follow.  Mainly a solo piano piece, this was not to be Chick’s grand solo.  Eddie Gomez starts off very, very slow, dragging his bow across his bass.  With daunting pulls, he stood alone, his sound so deep and lovely.  I remember having to focus very hard as the table full of European tourists were drunk and talking loudly.  It is VERY hard for me to focus. I tried so hard. Luckily the manager came over and quieted them. It didn’t last long.  Did these people not know who they were watching?  I couldn’t believe their lack of manners.  This was not the show to be having a conversation and I was NOT the neighbor to be having a conversation by.  I only had to ask them once.  I was livid for a hot minute and I quickly let the music sooth me.  Heal my anger.  It didn’t take more then a few notes, a sip of my wine and a bite of my lovely salad to be put back into my happy place.  I fell in love with Eddie at this moment.  It was simply magnificent.

Eddie was playing this technically classical jazzy song all by himself and he had hooked me into a dream world as I closed my eyes and let his sound take me over.  There is something about how he played. I could have listened to it for hours. It was the most soothing part of the night. This was not jazz.  This was classical goodness and with the bass! So much appreciation!! It went on for quite some time…and then John comes back in…

Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez, and John Scofield @ The Blue Note

Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez, and John Scofield @ The Blue Note

As I sit there listening, I realize that the songs have been mashed up as Disney’s Snow White’s Someday My Prince Will Come was teased amongst the songs.  In my head I start singing:”A Dream That You Wish Will Come True”.  I also feel as though Norah JonesThe Nearness of You was teased by John.  I thought of my sister and wished she was there to hear this.

John Scofield @ The Blue Note

John Scofield @ The Blue Note

John Coltrane’s Bessie’s Blues brought us a new song, a new sound. Chick starts plunking the keys, pacing the song.  Straight Jazz.  Medium pulls on the bass strings, Eddie is very evident in this song.  Just a yummy jazzy song, all instruments playing at their leisure…that whole organized chaos vibe going on.  John pulled out a faster guitar here and during his solos, shredded his guitar with his face in a million different directions.  Chick’s fingers were moving fast as lighting.  John strums his guitar.  These two were just killing it and this became my favorite song of the night.  Eddie started playing so hard that you could hear his breathing over the music…his voice came out and he couldn’t help it.  And with an oh-so-bluesy ending, more applause and a huge smile on Chick’s face 🙂

Chick on Mic

Chick on Mic

The final song was Bill Evans’ Peri’s Scope.  I think that was the only Bill Evans song they performed to be honest unless that Song #1 is his.  This is not something that held back my happiness one bit. The night had been glorious and it wasn’t even close to being over.  A typical jazzy tune, John filling in for the horn section, it was lovely.  The piano was playful and John and Chick banter with their instruments. So upbeat, light. Soft taps of the cymbals and paced pulls of the bass strings. They were having fun and we felt it.

Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez, and John Scofield @ The Blue Note

Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez, and John Scofield @ The Blue Note

I felt as if it were over as soon as it begun.  I was in love with what I had seen and actually needed more.  Right then.  But there would be no encore and I had been surrounded by overly chatty people, the old gentleman behind me was drunk and HUMMED the entire set.  These things didn’t matter! Within a few minutes I was up out of my chair and ready to go straight up meet these legends.   And that is exactly what I did.  To the Green Room…

John Scofield and TR @ The Blue Note

John Scofield and TR @ The Blue Note (05.12.10)

Upon first meeting John, he asks me if I play guitar.  He asks my girlfriend the same question.  I believe he asks all the ladies this question as his follow up statement was “YIPPIE, I have girl fans.”  LOL!!!  The man was genuinely intrigued and a conversation began between the three of us that continued on for some time.  I lost track of my entire life during that time.  We spoke of the Montreal Jazz Festival, music, guitars, songs, NYC…to transcribe it would take forever and it’s times like these that I don’t need to write down for I will never forget these moments…

Chick Corea and TR @ The Blue Note (05.12.10)

Chick Corea and TR @ The Blue Note (05.12.10)

Upon meeting Chick, he wasn’t as excited but wasn’t fan-blocking me or anything either haha.  We talked about the set, this is the point we discussed song titles and I missed a few as I lost my mind a little during this meeting as well.  There are some artists where I can talk to them like they are family but there are others I can’t even look in the eyes for fear I might explode or turn to stone.  Yeah, it’s like that.  Just so much love for their music, I almost can’t speak to them cause, really, want me to be brutally honest??  The person is so different from the music and I am terrified of changing my relationship with the music.  I don’t generally like to have big sit downs with artists I like.  But when I do, I PRAY they are as genuine as their music.

In this case, Chick and John were lovely people, Eddie and Paul included, even though I barely spoke three words to them having the attention of Chick for a few minutes and John for a few minutes…that was good enough for me.  My friend and I raged the Green Room area for a bit meeting Chick’s wife, who was covered in what I referred to as “glitter.”  She corrected me and said, “Fairy Dust.”  She was a kindred spirit for sure.  After about 30 minutes of straight chillen, my girlfriend and I left The Blue Note completely speechless.  As we walked down the street, neither of us talked but I knew exactly what she was thinking: HOLY SHIT!!  THAT – JUST – HAPPENED!!!

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