|Terri Lyne Carrington|
The 2018 Detroit Jazz Festival started Friday evening with memorable performances from headliners the Resident Ensemble co-led by Grammy-winners drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Esperanza Spalding and the Chick Corea Akoustic Band. The sets couldn’t have been more diverse. The Resident Ensemble’s set was a big shout out to the late Detroit jazz pianist Geri Allen. The set was a mix of Allen’s familiar and lesser-known compositions. Both Carrington and Spalding worked extensively with Allen, and were comfortable with her compositions which straddled the lines of post-bop and free jazz. The Avant-garde pianist Kris Davis completed the rhythm section. Saxophonists Dave McMurray and Ravi Coltrane were the special guests. McMurray, who’s riding the success of “Music is Life,” his acclaimed debut recording for Blue Note Records, was of excellent form on flute. And Coltrane had several mic-dropping solos. The ensemble did a tremendous job of presenting Allen’s music although the band might have been a bit too out there for the seasoned jazz purists the Detroit Jazz Festival attracts. Davis fingers, however, zoomed up and down the keys as if haunted by Allen’s ghost on Black Man,” “Open on All Sides,” and “Printmakers”. Maurice Chestnut tap dancing on Allen’s “Running as Fast as You Can “was the moment most of the audience thought about on the drive home.
Corea’s, the festival’s artist-in-residence, Akoustic Band—bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl--was tighter than a new suit jacket. The band made a name for itself in the late 80’s, and during the band’s hour-plus set, Friday evening they revisited some of the music that made the band a household sensation. The showstopper was the band’s version of “In a Sentimental Mood,” which Corea dedicated to Aretha Franklin. The band played it so beautifully I couldn’t help wondering if Franklin’s spirit caught that part of the band’s performance en route to heaven. The band received an ovation, and a second one when they closed the set. The audience was so worked up they would’ve rioted had the band not agreed to an encore. Each member played an improvised solo. Corea is the leader, and Patitucci is undoubtedly the band’s muscle. Listening to him walk the bass on “A Japanese Waltz” “That Old Feeling,” and during his encore solo, a case could be presented that Patitucci is the greatest jazz bass player of his generation.