Events at this intimate venue can be too serious for their own good, yet vibraphonist Warren Wolf's with his trio this night was anything but. Twenty minutes in, the smiles of pleasure on all three faces was testament to their shared realization they had hit their stride for the evening, but the leader of Wolfpack kept himself deliberately lighthearted as he realized his instrument was falling apart; objects began to fly as early in the set as the first number but it wasn't till midway through the hour-plus that the group was on-stage that Wolf, grinning ruefully from ear to ear, pointed out how some of the wiring holding the bars together had frayed and split; as is to prove a point, he hit a flat note but, in so doing, simply rendered it a marvel of his resolve that he was subsequently able to successfully navigate his instrument, often as lightning fast as he started the night, without hitting any more bum notes. On the contrary, he continued to elicit glowing resonant tones from the vibes in correlation to the fluid pulse from Jake Sherman's Hammond organ and the light-but-firm rhythm drumming Lee Fish maintained with his minimal kit. Forestalling the inevitable, but also demonstrating his camaraderie with his co- musicians as well as his own eclectic skills, Wolf took quick turns on drums and keyboard before the trio concluded the evening with authoritative but no less gleeful relish, leaving each other and the fascinated audience equally high- spirited and satisfied with the music as rendered.
Soule Monde/Natalie Cressman Nectar's June 6, 2014
Trey Anastasio did not show up to sit in with these members of his current solo band, but even if he had, it's arguable there was room to accommodate him. Keyboardist Ray Paczkowski and drummer Russ Lawton were sitting in with Cressman and co. at one point, but upon their departure to prep for their own set, there was no discernible drop off in lively musicianship. On the contrary, Jonathan Stein with his seven-string bass, Ben Lusher's crisp keys and the perpetual motion of Mark Whitfield, Jr.'s drums maintained space even as they so assertively interacted with each other. And while the leader of the band may or may not have heard Flora Purim, the airy tone of her voice certainly called the great Brazilian jazz singer to mind (just as her hearty trombone playing matched will with Casey's earthy playing).
Soule Monde have nurtured their chemistry as a duo over the past couple years to the point they are the definition of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Not only does the drums/keyboards duo never allow a thought of other missing instruments, melody- or percussion-wise, their sound has grown gigantic (notwithstanding the cramped quarters of this club). Digging into the deep grooves of "Whassat" and "Miss Miriam" or elaborating on melody such as that of "The Story," Lawton and Paczkowski established themselves early on in the first of their two sets, as they fully and completely encompassed their tunes, their spontaneity so palpable, it was impossible to tell where the song left off and the improvisation began. And they savored doing so all the while, as often as did their listeners, grinning from ear to ear in delight at what they were creating.
& The Indomitable Soul Band/Jennifer Hartswick Band Waterfront Tent June 7, 2014
The second evening at the Discover Jazz Waterfront Tent ended up being a celebration of Burlington, Vermont, and for more than just the music of local artists. With full sun and temperatures in the eighties and no humidity in the soft breeze, there is no better summer weather on the shores of Lake Champlain. There may not be a better Burlington band than Kat Wright's right now either: she and her group are so artful in building upon familiar r&b/soul motifs without aping the classic sound, they can, as they did this night, offer a fully satisfying take on a vintage style with credibility and confidence. The namesake of the band restrained herself admirably with her full-throated singing, but she might well concentrate on softening and/or toning down her stage presence as she can detract from the collective impact of the Indomitable Soul Band or worse, distract from the attention guitarist Bob Wagner deserves when he's mid-solo . Wright's kindred spirit Jen Hartswick, on the other hand, has a truly ingratiating presence on stage, but her unfortunate tendency to oversing combined with her accompanists' more literal-minded take on a similar stylistic mix, rendered her set less satisfying, though rousing to the audience. The sit-in of saxophonist James Casey and trombonist Natalie Cressman, Hartswick's once and future partners in the Trey Anastasio Band, became the high point of the set when not only did the horns amplify the intensity of Stevie Wonder's "You Haven't Done Nothin,'" but the gleeful vocal harmonizing generated camaraderie Kat Wright and Co would be well served to cultivate.