Monday, June 21, 2010


Pianist Chick CoreaMr. Corea, any sane jazz fan would be right to assume a quartet that has bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist Kenny Garrett and the iconic drummer Roy Haynes should make for a memorable concert. That's unquestionably a marketable all-star lineup. Mr. Corea I have to be up front with you. I was anxious to catch your set on Father's Day at Orchestra Hall. Honestly, and I will tell you why, I was thoroughly disappointed. The near two hour performance felt thrown together, which according to the president of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra--who talked about how the concert came about minutes before your quartet hit the stage--wasn't far from the truth. She pointed out it was organized spur of the moment.

It was the first time I attended a concert at Orchestra Hall and the ushers seated latecomers while the band played. Many things bothered me. For the first have of the show, the quartet was lackluster. The quartet seemed unconcerned about giving the audience their money worth. Honestly, Mr. Corea, the first hour felt like a dress rehearsal, especially when you all debated which tune to play next. I thought to myself, man, they are winging it. They never prepared a set list.

There're a few noteworthy moments, but not hardly enough given the caliber of musicians. McBride-- an honorary member of the Detroit jazz community since his riveting performance as headliner and artist in residence at the 2008 Detroit International Jazz Festival--was in top form.

McBride played the bass as if the late bassist Ray Brown had blessed it. Jazz bassist are a dime a dozen. There are many great ones on the scene, but McBride is at the head of the pack. I could've listened to his soloing all night. When Garrett is about to take off on an improvisational excursion he sways back and forth. Garrett is streaky although the reigning king of the alto sax. Sometimes,the man is brilliant. Other times he's really bad. Last night, he was a little bit of both. Garrett, finally came alive toward the end, but it was too little too late. I had already written his participation off as a bust.

At 85, Haynes remains jazz's greatest living show boater. I've seen Haynes perform before, and I own many of his classic jams such as "We Three," "Out of the Afternoon," "Cracklin" and my all time favorite "Cymbalism". I have a confession, listening to "Cymbalism," I developed a serious “man-crush” on alto saxophonist Frank Strozier.

Midway through the concert, Haynes did his trademark hey-mom-look-at-me drum solo, which I used to love. When he finished, the crowd went nuts. The husky white guy sitting to my left snacking on 99 cent bag of peanut M&M's was amazed by Haynes' endurance, finding it unbelievable the drummer could still wail at 85.I wanted to tell the guy Haynes has played the same funk tinged solo for decades now, but I held my tongue. Haynes was once the quintessential jazz drummer. Somewhere along the road, he morphed into a funk drummer.

Mr. Corea, your performance was the least inspired. You still have a knack for playing very picturesque lines akin to the great Bud Powell, but your solos were dull. I saw you two years ago at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, MI with your running-buddy from Miles Davis' fusion faze guitarist John McLauglin. McBride, Garrett and the energetic drummer Brian Blade were members. The band blew me away. Your work that evening was indescribably good. Your set last night was the polar opposite. I felt like a victim of a con job.

The organizers billed it your Freedom band, and that was misleading. The quartet seemed shackled. Save for McBride no one brought their A-game. Sometimes, all-star bands click, and other times they stink. I wondered if you had an opening or cancellation on your touring schedule and you decided to play Detroit at the last minute to make some extra cash.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


At the barbershop Thursday, I was reading a back issue of Complex magazine when Corey, a barber and a big music fan, ask if I knew you. I told Corey I saw you at the Detroit International Jazz Festival a decade ago. You're just 17 then, and a member of alto saxophonist Donald Harrison's band. You radiated a certain power and self-assurance unique to New Orleans trumpeters. Corey has a dear friend in Atlanta, Georgia with eclectic musical interest. She mailed him your latest album "Yesterday You Said Tomorrow" with a note stating he needed to give it his immediate attention, which he did. Corey explained why he can't stop playing it. Then he asked if I heard it yet.

"No. But I heard it's pretty good. What do you think about it?" I asked Corey. He was giving a high school kid wearing an oversize T-shirt and denim shorts a Mohawk hair cut, which is popular among teenagers."
"He sounds a lot like Miles Davis".
"Which Miles Davis? "
"A combination of Miles during the 50’s, 60’s and 70"s. Corey said turning off his clippers. He opened a brown leather CD holder and pulled out a copy of "Yesterday You Said Tomorrow," which he copied for a regular customer, but the customer never picked up.
"Here's copy of Christian's album. If you want to listen to it, you can have it," Corey said handing me a Memorex CD-R with the name of the album scribbled on with a green sharpie. Corey clicked the clippers back on.

"I heard a lot of good things about this album," I told Corey putting the CD in my baseball cap next to my eyeglass case and my car keys. "I never heard anyone compare him to Miles.
"Check out 'The Eraser' and 'American't'. Those are the best songs on the album. You can really feel the Miles' influence.

KB, my barber, was ready for me. I scooped up my baseball cap, pocketed my car keys. Then I flopped down in his barber chair, instructing KB to trim down the top of my hair and taper the sides and the back. KB joked that Corey has been giving customers bootlegged copies of your album all month. If the FBI busted him, KB wouldn't put up the bail. He’d be busy interviewing barbers to replace Corey while he did time for piracy. Driving home, I played "Yesterday You Said Tomorrow". I agree with Corey somewhat. You're definitely creative like Miles was. On the muted trumpet, you sounded much like Miles did on "Kind of Blue" and "Someday My Prince Will Come." "Yesterday You Said Tomorrow" was directionless. You tried to merge too many of your musical influences.

New Orleans has produced some of the best jazz trumpeter on earth. I understand your need to try something uncharacteristic. That's okay. I also understand you wanting to pay respect to your musical heroes. I asked Ravi Coltrane why he avoids playing his dad's music. Ravi answered the best way to honor my father's music is not to emulate it. That was a powerful statement about being an individual. Christian, I'll be happy when you finally put together your own sound.

You’re still young, and you have a ton of growing to do. Miles had his copycat phase I’m sure. The copycat thing is dangerous. A musician is likely to get involved. Wynton Marsalis, for example, was so wrapped up into Duke Ellington's music he damn near became Ellington. The same happened to Wallace Roney and his idol worship of Miles Davis. Next, time I'm at the barbershop I'll tell Corey that I heard the Miles influence in "Yesterday You Said Tomorrow," but other than the title I disliked this album.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I have mixed feelings about your new album, which I listened to over the weekend. You're a decent guitarist, but not aggressive like many of your peers. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. You hired musicians such as bassist Christian McBride, drummer Gregory Hutchinson and pianist Aaron Goldberg who have a ton of star power. I'm not sure that was a smart move. McBride brings a high level of professionalism to most albums he grace, so I understand why you wanted him. However, the hazard of hiring a musician with such dominate chops is McBride could've been easily mistaken as the leader instead of his intended purpose. Yotam, I hate being a jerk, but I questioned if you're in the same league as the others, particularly McBride. He has such a big presence throughout the album. Did you want it that way? Hutchinson and Goldberg are aggressive players as well, which contradicted you're laid back style. The ballads you performed suited you. Playing those kinds of songs is your strength. I wonder if hiring McBride, Hutchinson and Goldberg was more of a marketing ploy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Pianist HiromiSaturdays I am up at 6:00am sharp. This morning I awoke at noon. Last night, I caught your performance with bassist Stanley Clarke at the Sound Board inside Motor City Casino. Not my favorite place to hear a jazz concert. Then again, I am not sure Clarke's set qualifies as such although you all played a few jazz tunes, notably “Three Right Notes". The first half of the performance felt like a rock concert with the digital background and Clarke parading around like a rock-star. My friends, Andy, Marc, and Louie suggested I check you out.

They loved your solo performance at the Detroit Institute of the Arts earlier this year. Louie believe your are skills on par with pianist Art Tatum.Marc, is an important man around the Detroit jazz scene. He publishes Usual Suspects, a weekly jazz e-newsletter, which inform subscribers about upcoming jazz concerts and jazz related events. Marc favor certain jazz musicians and he always explains why. He urged me to attend Clarke’s show, which I did reluctantly because I hate casinos.

Andy, was disappointed drummer Lenny White was absent. The concert promoters pulled the old bait and switch trick, which pissed off Andy because he was expecting to hear Clarke's acoustic band. The promoters listed White, but some hotshot drummer from Chicago performed instead. Andy is a jazz purist at heart, and he was anxious to hear White. Nevertheless, I believe Andy enjoyed the concert anyway.

Hiromi, your performance was over the top. It seemed you had an inexhaustible supply of energy, and I wondered if you drank a six-pack of Red Bull or some other energy drink before the show?

Honestly, after the third tune, I wondered if comparing you to Tatum was far-fetched. However, on the very the next tune, which you played alone, you dispelled any doubts I had. I finally saw the Tatum-like finesse Louie noticed. It sounded as if Tatum and stride pianist Willie "the Lion" Smith spirit's had blessed your hands. I envied how you mixed different piano styles. Did you rehearse? I bet you made it up on the spot. Anyway, that solo was a highlight.

Clarke was quite the showman as expected. He horsed around like a rocker, which the crowd enjoyed. I’m not one for a lot of horseplay, but Clarke made it fun to watch. The man was brilliant all night. He has the stamina of a gladiator. He followed your incredible solo with one of his own. He played his upright bass as if the thing was an oversize guitar. He's heavy-handed like pianist Randy Weston's bassist Alex Blake. At Weston's, gig at Kerrytown Concert House, a few months back, I asked Louie about Blake’s style. Louie said Blake’s style is similar to Moroccan bass players.

From start to finish, you and Clarke had the crowd worked up. I never witnessed so many ovations. I slept late because being at the show was exhausting.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Last month, I through a make believe jazz blog listening party. The first of many I plan to host. I played the new albums by jazz pianists Jacky Terrason, Marc Cary and you, the great Geri Allen. All of you are adventurous jazz musicians. Then I asked a group of make believe listeners to comment on the albums. Geri, I know that's odd, but I was trying to have a little fun and approach writing record reviews differently. Anyway, the listeners comments were favorable. They endorsed your solo album "Flying Toward the Sound," but I disliked it because it came across like you're killing time practicing. Solo albums are hit or miss. I've listened to plenty. Off hand, there's three I'd recommend "Solo Monk," "Gene Harris at Maybeck" and "Solo Piano" by Don Pullen.

Your other new album "Geri Allen & Timeline Live," which I received days after the listening party was special. Tap dancer Maurice Chestnut helped make it that, transforming his feet into instruments. I bet the album will be a favorite among jazz critics and jazz bloggers. "Geri Allen & Timeline live" and "Decisive Steps" by saxophonist Tia Fuller are the sweetest projects I've experience this year. Fuller included a 20-second duet with a tap dancer. I wondered why she cut the duet short.

I saw Timeline at the 2009 Detroit international Jazz Festival. The quartet was marvelous. Chestnut's feet worked harder than summer interns. By the third tune, his outfit was sweaty. I left the performance wishing you'd someday cut an album with Timeline. My wish was granted, and I was elated you decided to record live. That's the best way to experience the quartet. How long did it take Maurice Chestnut to gel with the band?

On "Geri Allen & Timeline," Chestnut made his tap shoes sound like mini-percussions. On the opener, "Philly Joe" drummer Kassa Overall hounded Chestnut like a supervisor, but the tapper kept his cool. He matched Overall lick for lick blending perfectly with the drummer cymbal work. On "LWB'S House," you sounded as if you played two pianos. And Chestnut tapped with an extra pair of feet. The riffing with Overall on "Ah Leu Cha" was conversational like two friends gossiping. Geri, I'm going to circulate a petition making it mandatory Timeline never break up.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Lutcher, seeing you downtown yesterday made my day. You're a no-show at the last Detroit jazz festival, which concerned me. I asked some of your acquaintances if they knew of your whereabouts. None of them knew. Honestly, I thought you died. That would explain why you missedthe festival. I tracked down your telephone number, and for a week I called you repeatedly, but no one answered. On this jazz blog, I posted you're missing, hoping one of my readers knew where you were. I wrote about our first meeting. I forgot what year. We met backstage at the jazz fest shortly before vocalist Nancy Wilson performed. I'd seen you at the festival before, but I never had the nerve to approach you. You looked unfriendly, which I discovered later wasn't true. Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave said you're PJ Lutcher, a freelance jazz journalist.

You always wore a suit no matter how hot it was. The men of your generation dressed impeccably. When you said you put off an operation you’re needed to attend the festival, I knew you’re a real jazz fan. Each year,I looked forward to hanging out with you. We talked mostly about the music. You shared little of your personal life. You mentioned jazz vocalist Nellie Lutcher was a relative, and you're working on her biography. I asked where I could get a few your jazz articles. Without hesitating, you pulled three folded clips from your pocket. The articles were faded with telephone numbers and notes scribbled on the back. I thought I was the only music journalist who carried around clips. Apparently, you'd been doing so forever. Oddly, that made me like you even more. I enjoyed each one, particularly the one about pianist Barry Harris.

Your writing style was matter-of-fact. You captured how unselfish Harris was, sharing his jazz know how with up and coming jazz musicians. Your sentences were sharp as the creases in a gigolo's slacks. You made your point and kept on moving. I never had to consult my dictionary. I still have the three articles you gave me. I reread them often.

I always worked hard to have a clean writing style. I never wanted my readers to think I set out to dazzle them with fancy words and lengthy sentences. I want to be a craftsman, a writer who sweats over every sentence. A writer who invests a lot of time searching for the perfect words. A writer who's meticulous about every detail. Did you have similar goals, pursuing a career in music journalism? I've digressed. I shouldn't be blabbing about my goals. I've been working downtown lately. I saw you Monday, and again yesterday. I was happy you're still going strong.

You skipped the festival last year because you’re hospitalized. Had I known that, I would've visited you everyday, and kept you updated on the festival highlights. Thank God, you’re okay. You still look good. I'm sure you plan to attend the festival this year. By the way, I accept your invitation to visit you whenever I'm downtown. I may stop by this weekend. I have a stack of new jazz albums you should hear. I'll bring this great tenor saxophonists Booker Ervin and Dexter Gordon made for Prestige Records in 1965 titled "Setting the Pace".

The album is a pure blowing session. Two top tenor players swinging it out. I wore out two copies of it. The average running time per song was 19 minutes. I bet Booker and Dexter had to be hospitalized for dehydration after that grueling session. Lutcher, I'm sure you'll love the album.

Knowing that you're okay put my mind at ease. I’m going to check up on you regularly.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Guitarist Pat MethenyI missed your one-man show last week at Orchestra Hall. I wanted to attend, but I learned about it too late to get tickets. Fortunately, I caught your last concert in Detroit three years ago. Anyway, Sheila, a friend, attended your one-man show. I bumped into her last week. She asked if I planned to go. She was anxious. I never had her pegged for a Pat Metheny fan although awhile back, Sheila mentioned she liked jazz. Most people associate instrumentalists such as Boney James, Dave Koz and Kenny G with jazz, so I assumed Sheila liked smooth jazz not the real stuff.

Pat, Sheila recited some things about your storied career with the accuracy of a baseball card geek reciting the career statistics of his favorite pitcher. Yesterday, Sheila emailed me a concise review of your concert, which she thoroughly enjoyed. I want to share her review with you. Maybe, the next time you play in Detroit, you'll give her a shot out and invite her backstage after the concert.

Charles, it was a great show!!!! Pat Metheny is so talented. He didn’t need any sidemen because Pat had an array instruments he controlled with his guitar and other devices. He said that he always liked the player piano his grandfather owned. As a kid, Pat always marveled at how the piano played itself. A few years ago, Pat told a colleague about wanting to be an one-man orchestra, which is the ultimate oxymoron. They brainstormed and came up with “The Orchestrion”. The concert was amazing!!!! He played songs from previous albums, and you would’ve thought the entire Pat Metheny Group was on the stage, but it was only Pat and his array of contraptions. I was so blown away. He is a genius!!!!