Saturday, December 21, 2013


Pianist Kenny Barron
Branford Marsalis Quartet (Paradise Valley Jazz Series at Orchestra Hall)
I make sure to catch the Branford Marsalis Quartet when it performs in Detroit. Marsalis, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner always deliver memorable concerts. For the quartet's opening concert for the 2013 Paradise Valley Jazz Series I banked on another winner. The quartet didn’t disappoint. it delivered two-hours of music any jazz nut would sell his soul to see again.  I was anxious to check on drummer Justin Faulkner’s progress. He replaced the quartet’s longtime drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. Faulkner has proven to be a suitable replacement. At the 2010, Detroit Jazz Festival, was the first I heard him with the quartet. I liked Faulkner immediately. Back then, he wasn't aggressive as Watts. That was three years ago. Faulkner has fully immigrated into the quartet and he’s become its heart.

After the concert Paradise Valley Jazz concert, a fellow jazz writer told me Faulkner style is similar to the late jazz drummer Tony Williams. I felt Marsalis, Calderazzo and Revis has turned Faulkner into Watts. On the opening number of the concert, Faulkner used all his chops. So much so, I worried he wouldn’t have enough gas left to make it through the concert. Well he did. After the opener, he calmed down. The quartet's concert topped my list because they played extended versions of the music from their excellent 2012 album Four MF's Playin' Tunes. The concert had plenty of highlights. My favorite was Faulkner’s solo on the Return of the Jitney Man. 

McCoy Tyner and Savion Glover (2013 Detroit Jazz Festival)
This is the jazz pianist that kept the fire burning under saxophonist John Coltrane’s ass. And after leaving Coltrane’s band, Tyner built a remarkable career as a bandleader. McCoy Tyner is, 75, now and he has a laundry list of health issues. Given his amazing set at the 2013 Detroit Jazz Festival with special guest Savion Glover – currently the greatest tap dancer on earth – hasn't hurt his percussive style. His set was my favorite of the four day festival. Throughout Tyner was on Glover’s case like a mean supervisor.

Ralph Peterson (Jazz at the Centre at the Northwest Activities Center)
Peterson’s concert was the first of the Jazz at the Centre, a new jazz series in Detroit. Peterson is a zealous jazz drummer. And he’s been compared to the great Art Blakey. On this blog, I bragged about Peterson’s albums Duality Perspective and Outer Reaches. And I agree he’s one of the top jazz drummers working today. Honestly, I felt comparing him to Blakey was overdoing it. Blakey was unique. But my feelings about the comparison changed after watching Peterson damn near blow up the Northwest Activities Center with his band saxophonist Craig Handy, trumpeter and Josh Evans, organist Jake Sherman. Like Blakey, Peterson knows how to maximize young talent. Sherman and Evans stole the show.

Kenny Barron and Dave Holland (Paradise Valley Jazz Series at Orchestra Hall)
At first, putting Barron and Holland together didn’t make sense. Barron is a classy pianist and Holland is a maverick. His playing borders on free-jazz. He's a long jazz fusion rap sheet besides. This year, he put out a jazz fusion album Prism, a throwback to his days jamming with Miles Davis during the popularity of jazz and rock fusion. I’m not big on duets, especially when it’s two jazz musicians with the same styles. Barron and Holland are unlike. Somehow, there different styles mixed. They stretched out on several of Barron’s originals such as Spiral and Calypso, and ended the concert with my favorite Thelonious Monk tune In Walked Bud. Holland was my favorite. When he gets going he’s very animated and at the end of a concert his bass was huffing and puffing as if it had won a triathlon.

Charles McPherson (Art X at the Detroit Institute of the Arts)
This concert from native Detroiter alto saxophonist Charles McPherson was part of Art X sponsored by the Kresege Foundation. The Detroit Jazz Critic Mark Stryker organized it and handpicked McPherson sidemen drummer Sean Dobbins, bassist Rodney Whitaker and pianist Michael Weiss. Some 50 years ago, bebop pioneer Charlie Parker cast a spell on McPherson. And lucky for us be bop fans the spell was never broken. McPherson lives and breathes bebop and Charlie Parker’s spirit lives in his horn.  He opened with some originals Marionette, and lonely Little Child. Then he moved into some well-known favorites such as But Beautiful, Anthropology and Spring is Here. I loved this concert because I felt as if McPherson had taken me back to the golden era of bebop. 
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