|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.
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.