Monday, October 29, 2018


Christian McBride and Dianne Reeves
The 2018-2019 Paradise Jazz Series opened Friday evening at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall with a double bill that featured a duet from Grammy winner’s bassist Christian McBride and vocalists Dianne Reeves, and saxophonist Tia Fuller. Friday’s set was the second time McBride and Reeves have performed as a duo. From the onset, it was clear McBride and Reeves hadn’t spent much time rehearsing, and they were winging it. McBride and Reeves are master improvisers and performers and the duo was engaging, and the near-capacity audience was thoroughly enthralled by the performance from start to finish. McBride and Reeves have loads of chemistry and a high level of reverence for each other’s respective talent. Reeves spent most of the set scatting, which by the end of the set had become a bit annoying. Reeves undoubtedly has one of the greatest voices in music, and surely a large segment of the audience would’ve preferred she spent the set just singing. To Reeves’s credit, she has the scatting thing down to a science, and she’s arguably one of the best in the game. McBride surprised the audience toward the end of the set when he moved from the bass to the piano. Surprisingly, McBride is a pretty competent piano player, but he shouldn’t harbor any future aspirations of playing piano full-time. McBride and Reeves had the audience hyped for saxophonist Tia Fuller’s set. 

Tia Fuller
It was Fuller’s first time at the Paradise Jazz Series. Fuller is no stranger to Detroit. She is one of the stars on Detroit’s Mack Avenue Records, and she has an excellent body of recordings the most current being “Diamond Cut.” Fuller’s set was not one of her best, given the string of memorable performances she’s put on in Detroit over the years, particularly at the Detroit Jazz Festival. Fuller’s playing Friday evening was surprisingly inconsistent in spots and strong in others. She was test-driving a new trio. The new band has yet to gel fully. Fuller called selections from “Diamond Cut” and spent a good amount of time explaining to the audience the album's origins. Fuller’s set was a last-minute inclusion, which might explain why Fuller didn’t show up with her regular bandmates such as drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Mimi Jones, or some of the stars on “Diamond Cut.” The Paradise Jazz goers are experienced jazz-heads. Maybe Fuller wasn’t aware of that and that the series wasn’t the appropriate setting to dry run a new trio.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Pianist Alexis Lombre
For a year or so, the word circulating around Detroit’s jazz scene is the jazz pianist Alexis Lombre is a serious talent, and after she gains more experience as a session leader and as a bandleader she could possibly fill the void in Detroit’s jazz community left by the death of the great jazz pianist and educator Geri Allen. That’s a tall order for Lombre to embrace, but Lombre embodies the passion for jazz and she’s certainly skilled. For those not yet familiar with the pianist, Lombre is a native Chicagoan and a senior at the University of Michigan. She’s studied under the great jazz pianist Benny Green, and she’s currently under the watchful tutelage of the Grammy-winning jazz bassist Robert Hurst. Lombre has been working professionally for seven years, and she’s earned a weekly residency at Cliff Bells, which was held for many years and made a coveted local gig by the dynamic jazz saxophonist Marcus Elliot. I caught Lombre’s show Tuesday evening, curious to discover if all the praised afforded her was deserved. Lombre performed with a marvelous trio bassist Brian Juarez and drummer David Alverez II, who’s Benny Green’s go-to drummer. Two numbers into the first set, I was sold on Lombre. Lombre open with a few cuts from her recording “Southside Sounds”. The depth of her chops was there for everyone to marvel over as her trio swung through “A Blues In Tyne,” and “Lonely Path,” a number she composed while still in high school. After Lombre got the audience going, the trio performed modernized interpretations of familiar oldies such as “Caravan,” and “Autumn Leaves”. The second set was also dynamic. Lombre invited a few special guests to the bandstand. There was some damn fine blowing from the promising jazz trumpeter Trunino Lowe, who’s building quite a name for himself around Detroit. Lombre never allowed the second set to morph into a jam session. The special guests mix perfectly with the trio’s chemistry. One of the many highlights was the trio’s rebranding of the Weather Report gem “Elegant People” and then seamlessly segueing into Herbie Hancock’s classic “Maiden Voyage”. Lombre is foremost a swinger. She’s also, an adept arranger and composer, and she possesses an abundance of stagecraft. Most importantly you can hear history in her playing as if she invested time pouring over the music of great jazz pianists such as Wynton Kelly, Bobby Timmons, Chick Corea, and Herbie Hancock. The praise Lombre has received in such a short time on Detroit’s jazz scene, I’m convinced, is well deserved.