Jazz In Marciac Festival: Day 7
Maybe I was more susceptible to his showmanship than critics more familiar with him. The trio consisting of Sosa, bassist Childo Tomas and percussionist Miguel "Anga" Diaz walked onto the stage doing a moderately paced chant with something of a dark overtone, continuing it as they took their places and Sosa began out what I call (probably too often) "colorfully lyricism" - complex without jarring - on his "Intro To Elegua." Transitioning into "Mulaton," the opener stretched through 15 minutes of intense-to-delicate-and-back worldbeat exchanges, each player getting frequent turns at the audio forefront. It earned resounding applause from a concert tent perhaps three-fourths full.
Sosa, after paying tribute to Ferrer as "one of the greatest, one of the pioneers of ourmusic," played unaccompanied on "Breeze," with some barely audible texture-like vocals supplementing a ballad possessing what I noted as "soundtrack-like drama combined with classical depth." Diaz and Tomas joined in lightly, adding bird-like calls, percussion and vocal flourishes - maybe a mixed blessing as it made for a pleasing listen, but Sosa on his own was more appreciable.
The conclusion was also a bit of a drop-off, with Diaz doing a lively and long opening solo on the Cuban-laced "Tori Danzon," but it was a short rendition that ended before the trio established the momentum of most of the earlier songs. Sosa got the crowd doing the lyrics during an encore of the gentle Latin-paced "Iyawo," but it was a rather sedate ending to the 75-minute performance.
My musical intellect tells me Ibrahim probably played the better show, but there were problems affecting its heart.
The main one was the competing concert by bluesman Popa Chubby - and in this case I do mean competing. Even though his band was playing six blocks away, they were going at a full-tilt volume that noticeably invaded the audio space of Ibrahim's tranquility. Workers compensated somewhat by closing the tent entrances, but it earned Chubby scathing criticism for his inconsideration in a French newspaper review. They were also less than kind to the opening show on that stage by Albert Cummings, stating "Like the Fabulous Thunderbirds , Cummings plays basic rock that's a little demagogic." Thanks are owned to Paul De Barros of Downbeat and The Seattle Times for the translation, as well as other insight he's offered.
I mentioned Evans jokingly, but Ibrahim's trio was in the same league, although profiles comparing him to Ellington and Monk are doubtless more appropriate. His meditative opening "Blue Bolero" featured lots of space without feeling intellectually empty. The mood continued on a transition without pause (as he did all night) to "Duke 88" before at least a bit of mid-tempo heat entered on "Whoza Mtwana." Drummer George Gray settled into a fairly low volume galloping gait, and Ibrahim threw in a few thick and playful chording stabbings, but within a few minutes transitioned to the dark and moody drama of "The Call."
I'm throwing out the names of the songs like I know them, which I didn't - I looked them up from a setlist in the press office the next day. But they frequently felt familiar, or at least possessed that comfortingly reassuring quality. I felt like things might be getting a little syrupy, however, when I swore he was doing a variation on the Terms Of Endearment theme (I'm not risking further revelations of my ignorance by trying to match it with the actual title).
Maybe I'd have gone home more charged up sticking around for the third concert, a duet by pianists Kenny Barron and Mulgrew Miller, but there's something that drains willpower about an "around 1 a.m." listed starting time when the 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. concerts often start late. Sorry to cheat family, friends and the few readers stumbling upon these reports by accident, but it's going to happen again during the triple-feature Charlie Parker tribute on day eight. As Clint Eastwood puts it, "a man's got to know his limitations."
Coming up on day eight: Tributes to Charlie Parker by Stefano Battista and Phil Woods,