Sunday, May 14, 2017


Branford Marsalis and Kurt Elling
Surely, for many at the sold out Branford Marsalis Quartet’s concert featuring jazz vocalist Kurt Elling it was the first time witnessing an encore morph into a jam session. That’s what happened Friday evening at the fifth concert of the Paradise Jazz Series at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall. The band put on inarguably the best show of this season. Hell, I’d argue the best in the past five years. And the encore was damn near as good as the concert. Marsalis and his band pianist Joey Calderazzo, drummer Justin Faulkner and bassist Eric Revis and Elling performed music from the acclaimed 2016 album “Upward Spiral.” The two-hour swing fest opened with “Teo” from the quartet’s date “Four MFs Playing Tunes,” after which Marsalis introduced Elling. Elling was of excellent voice. It didn’t take long for Elling to go from zero to sixty. Although Elling was the draw, Calderazzo’s and Faulkner’s performance were the most memorable.  Faulkner played as if the ghosts of the late jazz drummers Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, and Art Blakey were having a jam session in Faulkner’s body. During his tenure with the quartet, he has become the standout in the band. Calderazzo was right there with him, and it was magical watching the two trade. Honestly, when I learned of Elling joining the quartet for the “Upward Spiral” project, I had reservations if a jazz vocalist with such a distinctly beautiful voice would be a disruptive force with the best band in jazz. Elling, however, fits comfortably. After the band showed out on selections such as “There A Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon For New York,” “Blue Gardenias,” “From One Island To Another,” “Mama Said,” and “Blue Velvet,” the band exited the stage to a well-earned ovation. When the audience settled down, Marsalis and Elling returned to the stage and performed a duet. If that wasn’t enough, Revis came out after them and performed a bass solo that would’ve made Charles Mingus envious. There’s more. The band then played a hot version of “St James Infirmary” This is where the encore morphed into a jam session with trumpeter Terence Blanchard,  and saxophonist Diego Rivera joining in. At this point, people were dancing in the aisles.
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