Friday, November 4, 2011

THE STANLEY CLARKE BAND OPENED 2011-2012 PARADISE JAZZ SERIES

Stanley Clarke
I caught your show Thursday night at Orchestra Hall in downtown Detroit. Stanley. I enjoyed last night’s show more than your show in 2010 at the Sound Board inside the Motor City Casino. That show was more rock than jazz, which irked the shit out of me. Sure the audience was totally into all the showboating you and piano player Hiromi fed them for two hours. The show was unnecessarily over the top.

The crowd at the Paradise Jazz Series is hipper, and they have sophisticated ears. Horsing around on the bandstand would never fly with them, no way. Your current band drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., piano player Ruslan Sirota, and violin player Zach Brock have to be the grooviest jazz band on the scene.

Until last night, Omar Sosa’s show at the Jazz Café was my top jazz show of 2011, and Ahmad Jamal’s recent show at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, MI was a close second. Your set bumped Sosa from my top spot. Your band started out swinging with the Return to Forever favorite “No Mystery” and continued swinging and swinging.

The band approached the tune like a relay race with Bruner running the last leg. Bruner was the crowd favorite. Funk driven drummers aren’t my favorite, but Bruner was excitable and animated. I bet he dropped 10 pound soloing on “Song to John”.

Brock was my favorite. He’s going to have to take his violin to a masseur for a rub down because of the workout he put it through soloing on “No Mystery,” “Black Narcissus,” and “Paradigm Shift”.
Stanley, I could’ve split after the first tune. It was that satisfying. It ran 28 minutes. I clocked it. It was a mini-concert in itself. 

Had I split I would’ve missed your duet with Bruner on Duke Ellington’s “Take the Coltrane”. The duet was the most memorable part of the concert. Your interpretation of Duke’s tune would’ve made him blush and would’ve given Coltrane goose bumps.

Stanley, it was smart giving the crowd an intermission. Had you not, 70 percent of them would’ve missed work tomorrow because of exhaustion. They were jamming that hard all night long. Two things annoyed me. Neither annoyance had anything to do with the band’s performance.

Before the show began, the volunteer usher who escorted me to my seat barked at me because I opened the $2.00 pack of Twizzlers candy I bought at the bar in the atrium. The usher barked that food wasn’t allowed in the auditorium. 

I asked the usher to back off because Twizzlers aren’t a part of the four basic food group. They are junk food, and I didn’t see any signs posted forbidding junk food. The usher stormed off just as the lady in front of me spilled the latte she snuck into the auditorium from Starbucks.

The other annoyance was the jerked seated to my left talking on his cell-phone during your brilliant solo on “Black Narcissus”. Had the jerk arrived on time, he would’ve heard the announcement to turn off all cell-phones and other electronic devices.

I started to give him a piece of my mind. But I decided not to, reasoning a jerk who wore dirty work boots to Orchestra Hall must have a few screws loose and maybe prone to violence. The usher never berated the jerk, or the people recording the concert with their smart-phones. What does all this have to do with your excellent show? Not a darn thing. I’m blowing off steam.

Stanley, you have an exciting band. Your bass playing is more exuberant than ever. You didn’t walk the bass, you ran with it the entire night. The show was the best opening night of the Paradise Jazz Series since Ramsey Lewis’s set in 2008. You know how to throw a concert.

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