Sunday, May 19, 2019


Jason Marsalis
The jazz vibist and drummer Jason Marsalis has a new touring band called the BGQ Exploration, supposedly a modernized version of Benny Goodman’s 1930 quartet with Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, and Lionel Hampton. Friday and Saturday evening Marsalis’ test drove the quartet at Detroit’s Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe not necessarily playing Goodman’s original music but instead tunes his quartet performed regularly. The other music Marsalis featured was from Herbie Nichols, Duke Ellington, Herlin Riley, and several of Marsalis’s original tunes. He's foremost a jazz drummer, a damn good one. He’s also a fantastic vibe player, and during a few of his solos Saturday evening his mallet work reminded me of Detroiter Milt Jackson. For what it’s worth the BGQ Exploration is a competent quartet its members being drummer Gerald Watkins, clarinetist Joe Goldberg, and pianist Kris Tokarski, but the group hasn’t completely gelled yet. Of the concerts I have caught at the Dirty Dog, Marsalis’s was, it pains me to say, the most forgettable. There’s nothing wrong with presenting a set of standards, but what is the point of stripping them down to the would surface than reapplying the same old color. That’s what Marsalis is guilty of doing with such oldies as “I Got Rhythm,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it ain’t Got That Swing,” and “I’m Confessing.” Saturday evening was the first time at the Dirty Dog I saw a good percentage of the audience disinterested in the music before them. They weren’t talking endlessly while the quartet worked, but they were nonresponsive after most of the soloing. The concert wasn’t a total bust. There were moments where the BGQ displayed spunk like on “Harlem Shuffle, and “So Rare,” but those moments were few and far between. It was the kind of uninspired concert you’d likely forget about driving home from it, and wouldn’t take to Facebook to boast about. Midway through the set, I felt I made a mistake skipping the final jazz concert of the Carr Center’s season to catch Marsalis’s new band.

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