Monday, February 17, 2020


Vincent Chandler
If you’ve caught any of the trombonist Vincent Chandler’s concerts over the years, you may know they are mainly structured as a showcase for the musicians in his bands. He’s always been—as long as I’ve followed his career—a selfless leader and a generous jazz educator to the many established musicians and student musicians who’ve benefited from his passion for jazz. So, Saturday evening at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History it was a pleasure to witness him take time to give himself a humungous shout-out, which he did eloquently and humorously before performing an hour-plus set of original music with six of Detroit's best jazz musicians. In his group were pianist Michael Malis, drummer Sean Dobbins, bassist Josef Deas, trumpeter Dwight Adams, and saxophonists De’Sean Jones and Rafael Statin. That’s a helluva talent pool occupying the bandstand. Before they dove fearlessly into Chandler’s multi-layered tunes, he shared with the near-capacity audience some pivotal chunks of his evolution as a musician, an educator, a son, and a husband. Don’t get it twisted, he wasn’t bragging about his accomplishments, which are considerable. The self-acknowledgment was well-deserved and meaningful. After he finished, his group torched the museum with Minor Blues for Ed Love, So What Now, Do as I Say Not as I Do, and The Essence of a Remorseful Plea. And when the group needed a minute to allow their instruments to cool off after all that swinging. Chandler's wife, an accomplished opera vocalist, floored the audience with her rendering of Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday. After the audience regained its composure, the musicians returned to high-swing mode and didn’t let up. The pure reverence Chandler has for his bandmates was evident on the opening number. The solos appeared to be designed to give the audience a taste of each musician’s genius. Statin’s solo was the most memorable. He damn near blew the light fixtures off the ceiling. He’s reached new plateaus in his playing, and he’s finally purged the Kenny Garrett influence from his system. Dobbins and Deas were fabulous when the zoom lens was pointed on them. They probably understand Chandler’s musical and compositional leanings more than the others because they played and grew with him for years in the hot jazz quintet Urban Transport. There were more concert highlights than there’s room here to discuss. However, the most poignant time of the concert occurred when the group poured their souls into, I Can’t Breathe, Chandler’s artistic statement to the tragic end of Eric Gardner’s life. Chandler played brilliantly the entire concert. As a trombonist, his streetwise tone and aggressive phrasing beg comparison to Curtis Fuller. The concert was billed it as the Vincent Chandler Experience, and Chandler made sure it lived up to that.