Sunday, September 6, 2015


Rene' Marie
Michael Jewett, the jazz radio personality for WEMU, told the audience at the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage Saturday afternoon that Blade was the most dynamic drummer in jazz. The performance was Blade’s and his Fellowship Band first time playing the Detroit Jazz Festival. Blade has played the festival many times as a sideman. Two songs into the performance Blade had proven that Jewett wasn’t bullshitting the audience about Blade’s status in jazz. 

Blade had to stop playing in the middle of the third tune because he was playing with such reckless ferocity he broke the pedal of his bass drum. That mishap didn’t stop the Fellowship – saxophonists Melvin Butler and Myron Walden, pianist Jon Cowherd, and bassist Chris Thomas – from pushing the composition forward while Blade got it together. Blade is the driving force behind the Wayne Shorter Quartet, and Blade’s go-for-broke-mentality has carried over into the music the Fellowship makes. 

Honestly, the Fellowship sounded a lot like Shorter’s quartet. The likeness is attributable to the abstract manner in which the Fellowship swings. During the Fellowship’s set, there’re many highlights. The one plenty people in attendance will wake up Sunday morning thinking about is Walden’s solo on the third number. Walden wolfed down the chord changes like breakfast cereal. Butler was on, too. He played a solo so hot and humid I thought his tenor would melt in his hands before the completion.

The Steve Turre/ Rahsaan Roland Kirk 80th Birthday Celebration Band set was the one I was most anxious to experience Saturday. The band performed some of Kirk’s well-known material such as “Bright Moments,” “Inflated Tears,” and “Theme for the Eulipions”. And the Birthday Celebration Band was stocked with some of my favorite jazz musicians alto saxophonist Vincent Herring, pianist Xavier Davis, and saxophonist James Carter. 

Two numbers into the set, however, I was ready to split. Carter, an exciting multi-saxophonist, who’s at his absolute best fronting his band, seemed out of sorts playing the flute on “Bright Moments”. The band didn’t click right away. That changed when vocalist Naima Shambourger sang “Theme for the Eulipions”, Shambourger shifted the momentum of the set, and got the crowd excited, Then Turre called “Travon’s Blues,” the standout cut from his most recent album “Spirit Man”.  Given all the star power in this band, it took the band nearly half the set to get it together.
My plan was simple. Catch half of jazz vocalist Rene’ Marie’s set at the Wayne State University Pyramid Stage, shoot over to the Carhartt Amphitheater Stage to hear some of the Maria Schneider Orchestra,  and then finish out  Saturday night at Kenny Garrett’s hit at the JP Morgan Chase Main Stage. Suffice it to say, my plan didn’t pan out because after Rene’ Marie and her terrific rhythm section – pianist John Chin, drummer Quentin Baxter, and bassist Elias Bailey – got going I couldn’t tear myself away from Marie’s concert. 

Marie sang six songs two from her Grammy-nominated album “I Want To Be Evil: With Love to Eartha Kitt” and three songs from an upcoming album “The Sound of Red”.  Marie threw in a Temptation classic for good measure. The classic was “Just My Imagination,” and that classic set the audience off. Marie sang it so beautifully Eddie Kendricks, the Temptation who immortalized the song, would’ve been envious. 

Marie is masterful at getting an audience on her side and keeping them spellbound. She has a voice that could give God goose bumps. A big part of her magic is a knack for putting together the right band. Marie’s was the draw, but she gave the lion share of the spotlight to John Chin, who had smoke coming from the tips of his fingers at the completion of the performance. Marie had the audience so fired up they wouldn’t disperse until she sang an encore.  
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