Confirmation: The 2004 Telluride Jazz Celebration
Joined by Mark Eagan on bass, and Lenny White on drums, the trio's sound was like a blanket that draped over the entire room. The trio was tight, but also provided such a giant, full sound their instrumentation. Eagan is an entire bass layer, playing electric fretless. Even Eagan's compositional contributions demonstrate a unique creativity and a masterful command of the bass, as well as pure melody. Lenny White is more than a legendary drummer. As you watch him, his sense of texture and overall musicality as a percussionist becomes your focus. After a nearly seamless acoustic solo, Coryell restates the "head" of the tune, but this time pinching harmonics off of each string with his nail. Coryell was the guest of honor for 2004, and rightfully so. His presence was commanding as a leader, spokesperson, role model and musician, and after his previous experience in Telluride, he nearly held the key to the city already. His performances were crisp, energetic, moving and memorable. He took the time to chat with fans, to mingle with other musicians, as well as coach and teach us. Sunday in the park, He even called over a wandering dog by name, as they had met the day before in town.
As the first threat of rain hovered Town Park, Coryell and his trio magically disassembled the clouds one by one, to reveal the sunshine of their sound. As the band created an electric version of "Spaces Revisited" with blistering guitar solos full of blatant Hendrix teases, it was clear that there was no longer any imminent danger of rain, nor would there be at all that weekend. The music, the experience, and the power of that shared experience, was a shining beauty itself. Perhaps that was why the final tune of Coryell's set on the main-stage was a rendition of "Confirmation" by Charlie Parker. As a surprise, he invited vibraphone master Dave Samuels to the stage, sax wiz Chris Potter, and rising guitarist Adam Rogers. They all smiled, and looked out at the eager crowd. I sat just a few rows from the stage, on the edge of my seat as they counted the tune off. I had no idea what was coming.
"That's what it sounds like!" I laughed, as they started into the head of the tune. My smile was uncontainable, as I listened to the group tear through "my lesson". My mind was excited with thought, as I tried to read through the chart Uncle Larry had written out for me that muggy July day in New York. The Charlie Parker versions I listened to echoed with each change. As he walked off, he met me with a grin and said, "Confirmation! That one was for you!"
Coryell's hand in opening the doors to "fusion" is simply a metaphor for his entire existence. Wherever he goes, he is constantly opening doors for those around him. In Telluride, he seems to have that effect on everyone, musicians and audiences alike.
Part 6: Karl Denson Trio
Sunday afternoon the weather had kept its end of the bargain. Without a cloud to be seen, Karl Denson arrived with the debut of his trio. Making my way towards the main stage, beside the San Miguel River, I heard Denson's horn from quite a distance. The trio had just started their set as the echoing saxophone bounced from mountain to mountain. I walked faster, following the sound to its origin. As the attack grew closer, the echoes changed with each step. By the time I was seated before the trio, I was entranced.
Karl Denson is funky. That is a fact. He is a tremendously soulful horn player, and with KDTU (some of his funkier outfits) he has been known to keep crowds late, and moving. With his trio, he paints with an entirely different palette. His playing was textural, etherial and delicate. The long sax lines were interwoven with very melodic bass lines as counterpoints. With Rob Thorsen on bass, and Brett Sanders on drums, the trio was striving for and achieving their own sound. The material was comprised of beauty, emotion, and a mood that demonstrated a refreshingly deeper, more composed side to Denson.
There is both beauty and clarity in frailty. A delicate touch, a wavering pitch, or even a moment of silence can sometimes evoke the most personal, intense and moving experiences within music. These are sometimes the moments of the truest expression during improvisation. This was thematic all weekend at the festival, in "Black Orpheus" with Coryell's trio, in Kurt Elling's smooth and intimate vocal performance on the mainstage, in ambient moments of Marco, Joe, Chris Potter, Flora and Airto, and of course, in Karl Denson's Trio performance.
Part 7: Chris Potter Quartet