Sunday, April 12, 2009

THE MOST VALUABLE SWINGER

Drummer Brian Blade
Dear Miles Davis-

I planned to write you last week. I couldn’t find the time. I had to revise an article I wrote about a local musician who has an orchestra much like Gil Evans'. The revision took longer than I hoped. Then I had to attend a concert I forgot I had tickets to. I should've stayed home. The concert was a waste. Anyway, Mr. Davis, I want to share with you the experience I had last Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mi. Did you ever play in that college town? The jazz aficionados there are hipper than the ones from Detroit.

I know you played in Detroit at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, and the Minor Key. I wasn’t born when you performed at those clubs, but I heard some interesting stories. I won’t share them with you now. You’re probably busy painting or working on some new music. Last Saturday, pianist Chick Corea, and guitarist John McLaughlin performed--jazz musicians you had on your payroll--Hill Auditorium. They’re still going strong.

Corea and McLaughlin talked about meeting during the birth of “In a Silent Way,” your first fusion albums. Then they played a selection from that album. Corea said the name of the composition. I didn’t catch it. The audience was noisy all night. They’re grateful to spend two hour listening to accomplished jazz musicians playing their asses off.

I forgot to mention earlier, Mr. Davis, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade were in the band. I’ve been a jazz journalist awhile. I’ve attended many jazz concerts. Most were memorable other not so. The show Corea and McLaughlin put on was astounding. When they walked on the bandstand, the audience went nuts. That happened for the band played a single note. The audience even gave Garrett an ovation midway when he soloed on “The Disguise”. I never witnessed that before.

Mr. Davis, I understand why you adored Garrett. The man locks himself into his solos. His discography is hit or miss. The saxophonist has made some bad albums, and some praiseworthy ones. To appreciate what a consummate swinger Garrett is, he should be experienced live setting. Most of applauds was for Brian Blade. The drummer was the Most Valuable Swinger of the band.

Mr. Davis, you would have put Blade on the payroll. The man is uninhibited. I heard Blade play for the first time last year at Hill Auditorium with tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter. It was the weirdest concert I’ve attended. Shorter’s group walked on the bandstand. They had for over an hour. Then they left the stage. Shorter never acknowledged the audience, announced the material they played, or introduced his band-mates. I felt dismissed. I avowed never to attend a Wayne Shorter concert again. Mr. Davis, I digressed.

Blade had an almost obscene way of playing the drums. When he soloed, Blade made me blush. The man is short and thin, but he played with the power of three drummers. I detected bits and pieces of drummers Sonny Murray, Art Blakey, and Elvin Jones in Blade soloing.

Bassist Christian McBride received the least amount of solo time. When the opportunity surfaced, McBride walked the bassist through Hill Auditorium onto State street, grabbed a latte’ at Star Bucks on the way back. Then he returned to the bandstand in enough time for the band to close out the tune. Mr. Davis, all that didn’t occur. I apologize. I got carried away. That was my way of expressing how wonderful McBride is. McBride isn’t a greedy bass player. He always complements the bands he plays in.

Corea and McLaughlin spent a lot of time fawning over each other. I sensed their affection was genuine. They’re harmonious during both sets. The Concert was marvelous. Corea and McLaughlin are eligible for Social Security soon. Both are still evolving as composers, musicians, and bandleaders.

Mr. Davis, how often do you visit Corea and McLaughlin dreams to thank them for keeping the spirit of your music going? I’ve consumed enough of your time. I will stay in touch with you. If that’ okay with you. I want to share with you the impact you had on me when I was a rookie writer.

Charles
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