2000 Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival
As evening started to fall and temperatures started to do the same, the crowd swelled in anticipation of the arrival of the penultimate act of the fest, the inimitable Abbey Lincoln. Her crack rhythm team of young lions, pianist Brandon McCune, bassist John Ormond, and drummer Jaz Sawyer, opened on their own with a crackling take on Monk’s “Evidence” which announced they’d be taking care of business the rest of the set. Lincoln then stepped on stage and proceeded to spin her magical spell. By the third number she had the audience on its feet. There’s something truly unique to Lincoln’s art, as she never indulges in flash and bravura, yet the stories she tells with her own fine lyrics and writing hit a chord that connects with the listener. One of many highlights, her closing chorus of “I Should Care” offered ample proof of how she had won the crowd. She delivered the final “I should care,” paused and smiled (at this point the band dropped out and you could hear a pin drop), and suavely closed with “and I do.” It was simply enchanting!
It was a committed bunch that toughed it out for the closing performance of the Michael Weiss Septet, winds now whipping it up and folks scrambling to find an extra blanket or sweatshirt. In fact, after the show, alto man Steve Wilson told me his fingers had gone numb by the third tune, although you’d never know it by the intensity and tenacity that marked this final set of the evening. This was New York jazz at its hottest and Weiss, a recent winner in the 2000 Thelonious Monk Jazz Composers Competition, had brought some his most demanding charts. Along with Wilson and trumpeter Ryan Kisor, trombone man Steve Davis and drummer Joe Farnsworth were back, with bassist Paul Gill and percussionist Daniel Sadownick rounding out the group.
Weiss touched on several of his compositions from his current release on DIW, Power Station, including the title track, “Orient Express,” “Atlantis,” and “Soul Journey.” Farnsworth was the real glue here, as he proved to be earlier with One For All. He’s got a great sound and a propulsive swing, truly complimenting the soloists as only the best drummers do. “La Ventana” presented a fast samba tempo with Farnsworth and Sadownick meshing beautifully, then during the latter’s solo feature, Sadownick managed to sound like an entire percussion ensemble through the use of a cowbell beaten via a foot pedal. A charging “Atlantis” gave way to a shouting encore that found Davis going gutbucket alone with just Gill strolling behind him. It was an exhilarating finale to what continues to be one of the best festivals of this or any jazz season. Now with new artistic director Frank Malfitano in place, here’s hoping that the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival continues to build on its already solid reputation.