Monday, September 6, 2010

DAY 3 OF DETROIT JAZZ FEST

Maria Schneider
THE BEST SO FAR

The Maria Schnieder Orchestra's performance was the best set at the Detroit jazz fest so far. That is a major compliment given Kenny Barron and Mulgrew Miller, Trio M and the Defenders of the Groove featuring Ernie Andrews performed. Like the great jazz orchestral sage Gil Evans, Schneider compositions have depth, and she has a knack for getting the best from her work force. On Schneider's, original Sky Blue", saxophonist Steve Wilson horn melted in his hands. Tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin had the stamina of a long distance runner on "Journey Home" and "Hang Gliding" . Nowadays, it's hard to tell the difference between the many jazz orchestras out there. The Maria Schneider Orchestra stands out. I felt bad for the Wayne State University Big Band featuring trumpeter Terence Blanchard because that big band followed Schneider, which performance was impossible to top.

BONING UP

I did not know that Michigan has so many excellent trombonists until I caught Ron Kischuk & Master's of Music Trombone at the Mack Avenue Pyramid stage. This trombone summit was the brainchild of Kischuk, who is a competent bandleader and JJ Johnson and Kai Winding authority. Kischk honored both. Kischuk managed to dig up some lesser know JJ Johnson compositions such as "In Walked Horace" and "Sweet Georgia Gillespie" which combined the changes to the standard "Sweet Georgia Brown" and Dizzy Gillespie's classic "Salt Peanuts". To pull off this tribute, Kischuk recruited trombonists Ed Gooch, Randall Hawes, George Troia and Johnny Trudell. All blew as if Johnson's spirit was on the bandstand instructing the trombonists on what notes to play.

BORING DUET

Those fans of jazz pianist Kenny Barron and Mulgrew Miller expecting an old fashion cutting contest at the Carhartt Amphitheatre stage was disappointed. Barron and Miller are classy pianists. They take their jobs seriously, and neither player is much for horsing around on the bandstand. Neither pianist attempted to outplay the other. They have similar styles and are showboating is beneath them. They never deviated from the script. The played extended versions of familiar standards from the great American songbook, and that seemed to be good enough for the capacity crowd, but I found the duet lacking. Both has similar styles. It would have been more interesting if it were two pianist who have little in common performing. Barron and Miller are too proper to get their hands dirty.


HYPE MAN

It's impossible for a group that has Eddie Henderson, Louis Hayes, Bobby Watson, Steve Turre, Melvin Sparks, and the blues vocalist Ernie Andrews to strike out. The Defenders of the Groove never came close to putting out a bad product Sunday evening. Steve Torre blew fire out his seashells. Andrews’s voice was stronger than a bodybuilder's biceps. The man is 82-year-old and he was bouncing around the stage like a fitness instructor. There was an annoyance worth discussing. The Defenders of the Groove apparently travels with a hype man. I did not catch the fellows name but he was corny and waisted a lot of time trying to get the audience fired up. When his unfunny wisecracks failed, he walked through the audience attempting to involve them in the performance. Bassist Christian McBride was supposed to introduce the band, but the hype man kept interrupting the bassist. Fed up McBride gave the microphone to the attention greedy hype man. Then McBride gracefully walked off the stage. Despite the hype man's constant interference, Andrews and company had a memorable set.
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