Sunday, July 27, 2008


I’m glad you decided to stick around. It’s passed 2:00am. My blog is usually closed for the night, but it’s not often I get the opportunity to chat face to face with a living icon. Mr. Nelson the next round is on the house. By the way, who convinced you to collaboration with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis? Kudos to the individual or committee who felt this collaboration would fly.

You have to admit, it was a risky venture. You and Wynton are from different corners of the music world. You’re a Country and Western legend, and Wynton is a polished jazz traditionalist.

I was hesitant about purchasing Two Men with the Blues. I’m familiar with Wynton track record, but I’m unfamiliar with yours. That’s wasn’t the reason I was reluctant. I didn’t think you guys would click. I was wrong.

Yesterday, I gave Two Men with the Blues my undivided attention. This album could be classified as a Blues oriented jam session led by two uninhibited pros. It was recorded live at the Lincoln Center, but it could’ve taken place in an after hours dive. You showed up with your acoustic guitar in tow, and Wynton with his trumpet. Before you guys began the session, Wynton removed his suit jacket and loosened his necktie. You hung up your cowboy hat, and slipped off your boots.

Wynton kicked things off, doodling with the melody to Bright Lights Big City, altering some chords here and there. You chimed right in. Barefooted you sort of strolled through Stardust and Ain’t Nobody’s Business. On Night Life and Georgia on My Mind you spilled your guts.

Throughout this album you guys reminisced. Mr. Nelson Isn’t the Blues about unburdening yourself? Two Men with the Blues wasn’t just a bunch of bellyaching. Overall, the album worked. You look as if you’re really to leave. Before you split, have another round on the house.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Keyboardist Gerard Gibbs It was supposed to be Christian McBride’s official introduction to Detroit’s jazz community, a two set performance held at the legendary jazz club Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, but the bassist was upstage by keyboardist Gerard Gibbs. Gibbs' trio accompanied McBride. Someone should've had a pep talk with Gibbs for the gig began, informing the keyboardist that McBride was the star. And it would be appreciated if he refrained from his customary antics.

The keyboardist, a notorious show-boater, spent the greater part of the first set acting a fool and man-handling his instrument. On the opening selection, Gibbs went straight into his usual hey-mom-look-at-me act. This was pretty much his attitude during the first set.

McBride, a seasoned bandleader, couldn’t humble Gibbs. McBride spent most of the set trying to reel Gibbs back on track. McBride couldn’t contain the annoying ball-hog. McBride gave up and went with the flow.

When McBride found the space, he solos were short and sweet. At one point, the band cleared the stage so McBride could play alone. The ballad he played was so heartfelt it could’ve made the devil cry. The capacity crowd finally got the chance for a brief moment to experience the wonderful bassist uninterrupted. As the guys returned to the stage, Gibbs yelled to the audience: “Aw that was pretty”. Again he averted the attention to himself.

Gibbs is so selfish he didn’t allow the bassist to enjoy the spotlight. Gibbs returned to whipping the piano as if he was mad at it. Even his drummer, Jabari, (he doesn’t use his surname) wearing a suede cowboy hat and matching cowboy boots on one of the humid nights of the year, ventured into show-boat mode, banging away like he was auditioning for a heavy metal band.

The only member of Gibbs’ trio who bonded with McBride was guitarist Perry Hughes. With his black cap turned backward, Hughes set on a stool and cruised through the set. For some reason, he didn’t a take solo.

Thanks to Gibbs antics the audience didn’t get a chance to experience all McBride has to offer, and to give him the welcome he so deserves.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Trombonist Vincent Chandler Dear Vincent,

I’m writing this blog to express the hurt I felt when I heard Urban Transport broke up. I know it’s been nearly one year now, and that’s a long time to keep my feelings about the band’s separation bottled up, but I could never find the right combination of words to express my hurt. I wondered why you, alto saxophonist Dean Moore, drummer Sean Dobbins, and bassist Yusef Deas decided to stop performing together. You guys were so compatible.

Urban Transport was my favorite Detroit based jazz band. I thought the group would stay together forever. You guys put in a lot of man hours perfecting the quintet’s sound. I can’t think of one jazz band from Detroit that only performed original music.

You always wanted Urban Transport to be taken seriously. I still think about the reception the quintet got at the 2005 Detroit International Jazz Festival. Of the performances at that fest, Urban Transport received one of the few standing ovation. You blushed when the audience stood up and begged for an encore.

Backstage a fellow from out of town told me he never imagined an ensemble of twenty-something musicians could be so poised and play so soulfully. Man that was a memorable afternoon.But you weren’t satisfied. You wanted the band to be a featured act on the main stage. In an interview for a story I wrote about Urban Transport published in the Metrotimes you told me the group rehearsed religiously because you didn’t want the group to be perceived as a jam session band.

Vincent, I never told you I’ve been a big fan since you were one of the late tenor saxophonist Donald Walden’s pupils. I watched you grow into to an exception trombonist and bandleader.

As the leader of Urban Transport, you treated Moore, Dobbins and Deas like equal partners. You encouraged them to write, and you never hogged the spotlight. I respect you for that.

I found out about the break up last year. I noticed Urban Transport wasn’t on the lineup for the 2007 Detroit International Jazz Festival. I talked to Bill Higgins, the drummer for Bop Culture, at the fest. I asked him why you guys weren’t performing. He said you moved to New York to be with your wife. Initially, I thought the group had irreconcilable issues.

A few months ago I went to Bert’s Marketplace to hear Moore’s new band, the Dean Moore Quartet. Moore and I chatted after the first set. He said the split was consensual. The guys knew you wanted to be in New York with your wife. And you encouraged them to pursue other endeavors. Moore said you’re doing great in New York.

Your ex-band mates are succeeding. Several months ago Dobbins released his first album as the leader of Sean Dobbins and the New Jazz Messengers. Moore is composing for his band the Dean Moore Quartet, and Deas is gigging steadily. Vincent, I really miss Urban Transport. I hope you guys reunite soon.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Listening to your second album Gracefullee, I had this vision of you locked up in your bedroom testing some tricky chord changes to a composition you've working on. Tacked to the walls are posters of your favorite jazz musicians. You’re positioned in front of your mirror blowing your alto sax. There’s photo of you wearing a black leather cap clutching your horn. You’re smiling. Next to the nightstand is an old fashion record player your mom purchased at Targets.

Atop your unmade twin size bed are albums by Stan Getz and Paul Desmond (the albums belong to your mom--there’re her favorite), and several pages of sheet music paper you’ve used to transcribe some of Getz’s and Desmond’s solos. The window in your bedroom is open halfway to allow fresh air in. You can hear the neighborhood kid’s frolicking outside. In front of the mirror, you’ve labored for hours trying to master Desmond’s licks.

The teens in your Wellesley, Massachusetts neighborhood think you’re asocial because you prefer to practice instead of going to the movies, hanging out at the Mall, and obsessing about boys. If Charlie Parker was alive you probably invite him to senior prom.. Instead of roaming with your classmates, you’d spend the evening picking Parker's brain. Insisting he teach you the chord changes to Parker's Mood.

Grace at, 16, you’re what mystics brand an old soul. I didn’t think it was feasible for a teenager to play with such maturity and authority. When I received Gracefullee last month and saw you on the cover with your mentor alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, I was a bit skeptical. Who in their right mind would give a recording deal to a teenager I mused?

Standing next to Konitz you looked so shy and out of place. I figured Konitz carried you through the session, and your sidemen guitarist Russell Malone, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Mat Wilson would handled you, pardon the pun, with kid gloves. Grace, I was dead wrong.

On this nearly flawless offering you’re in absolute control from start to finish. I should have known you’re unarguably special because the great saxophonist Phil Woods raved about you. Plus, this year alone you received some impressive accolades: Best Jazz Act in Boston, ASCAP Foundation 2008 Young Jazz Composer Award, and 2008 Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards just to list three.

On the duets with Konitz I couldn’t tell who was who because you both have identical melodic temperaments. You played the ballads You Don’t Know What Love Is and There Is Not Greater Love with a puppy love sort of innocence and naivete.

The duet with Malone on Just Friends and with Konitz on Alone Together are the most striking selections. You kidded around on Buzzing Around, having Konitz chase you through the chord changes. I bet he had to take breather afterward.

On Call of The Spirits and NY At Noon, nifty free jazz based compositions you let loose your aggressive size. Gracefullee is your sophomore album, but it should be taken as your official coming out party.