Monday, May 3, 2010


Jazz vocalist Kurt EllingKurt, you know how to schmooze a crowd. Joking the Monterey Jazz Festival sextet touring, was merely a dress rehearsal for their gig in Detroit was priceless. The audience chuckled, but I took you seriously. You've played in the Motown before, so you know the jazz fans here have discriminating taste. You, Kenny Barron, Russell Malone, and Regina Carter put on a terrific concert Saturday night at the Music Hall. Before I discuss the concert, I want to talk about some things that bothered me. First, the concert started late. That would never have happened at Orchestra Hall, Hill Auditorium, or the Michigan Theatre. Secondly, the MC didn't tell people to put their cellular phones on vibrate and that talking was forbidden. The woman sitting behind me phone rang twice during the second set. Finally, the men's restroom was messy. I've used Porter Johns at construction sites that were cleaner. Management, at the Music Hall needs to get their act together.

Aside from those annoyances, the concert was a blast. There're many highlights. My favorite was pianist Kenny Barron's duet with Regina Carter on "Georgia on My Mind". The violinist is a more reserved soloist now. A decade ago, she was an inferno. She played sweetly, and I doubt if she broke a sweat. It was slick how Carter weaved together pieces of "Amazing Grace" with "Georgia on My Mind". Carter was definitely the crowd favorite, not because she's a native Detroiter. She knows how to wow. Midway through her solos, the crowd erupted. I wondered if her band-mates were a little envious. Russell Malone rendition of "An Affair to Remember" was breathtaking.

The guitarist calmed the audience after Carter got them riled up. The man seated in front of me toyed with an iPad most of the first set. The gizmo must be addictive because he opted not to leave it at home where it belonged. I wanted to ask him why he wasted good money on the concert tickets, and then ignored what was happening on the stage. Six outstanding jazz musicians were playing their butts off, and he was surfing the net. He turned off iPad while Malone soloed on "An Affair to Remember". iPad guy snuggled with his date. She babbled with the woman seated next to her, who was visibly upset because an usher made her stop snapping photographs during the concert.

The audience was elated, Kurt, when your idol vocalist John Hendrix pranced onto the stage. The old-timer was decked out in white slacks, white shoes, and a Fuchsia blazer. He can still belt and scat impressively. He had the audience worked up on "In Walked Bud". You and Hendrix riffed like old drinking buddies. The standing ovations he received had to thrill him. Kurt, I've talked about some of your band-mates, but I've said little about you. I don't want you to feel left out.

You were magnificent. You probably not accustom to sharing the spotlight with other big named jazz musicians. Nevertheless, you behaved like a team player. The audience ate up your version of the Horace Silver ditty "Soul food". You made their bellies growl. Monday morning it'll all be over. Detroit was the Monterey Jazz Festival sextet’s last stop. The members will go separate ways. You all seemed like family.
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