My friend Marc wrote in his weekly jazz e-newsletter 21-year-old saxophone player Rafael Statin is a James Carter-like wunderkind. Nine times out of ten, Marc is right, and after hearing Statin wail on the tenor and the alto sax at Cliff Bell’s Thursday night, I agree wholeheartedly with Marc. But, I have concerns with Statin's overall presentation.
Statin started the 9:00pm set with a modern take on Miles Davis’ So What. Statin played the alto sax, and he barreled through his solo like a fullback. I did not hear the James Carter influence until the next song, but clearly Kenny Garrett also influenced Statin. He has Garrett’s stamina, and he rocks back and forth like Garrett when soloing.
Next, Statin called Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay. Stanton switched to the tenor sax. Right away, I heard James Carter’s influence. Statin updated Red Clay like Carter updated Take the "A" Train and Out of Nowhere on his second album Jurassic Classics.
At one stretch, Statin was blowing so forcefully and recklessly, I thought the tenor would explode in his hands. (I saw James Carter at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge once blowing so forcefully two keys popped off his tenor. I am not kidding.) Statin’s staff piano player Mike Jellick and drummer Alex White were equally rambunctious, playing long self-indulgent solos.
Statin closed the set with Caravan. White played a bombastic opening passage. He overplayed Stanton and Jellick the entire set, making them work harder than necessary. He has to learn, at some point, how to play tactfully.
The set felt like a jam session. The younger generation of Detroit jazz musicians have a tendency to treat every gig like a jam session. Showing up for gigs without a game plan. Then bull-shitting their way through three sets.
Statin did not have a set list. After each song, Statin, Jellick, and White huddled up to discuss what song to play next. Keeping the audience in limbo was unprofessional. What tunes to play should've been worked out before the gig.
Statin has promise. He is going to have a successful career. The same goes for Jellick and for White. A few weeks ago, Statin played with Jeff “Tain” Watts and Bob Hurst in New York. And Statin has received some pointers from Kenny Garrett. Statin needs to work on a few things.
First, Statin needs to tighten up his professionalism. Kicking off a gig on time would be a good start. Secondly, stop treating gigs like jam sessions, and the bandstand like a playground. Jazz fans are hip and discerning.They know when bands skipped rehearsing. Finally, cutback on the hey-mom-check-me-out circus tricks. The tricks are cool in moderation. It took James Carter some years to learn the art of self-editing.