Jazz In Marciac Festival: Day 8
As with every other time I've heard his work, I found myself wishing I'd never been bombarded with the raves in the first place. The concert with his quartet and a string ensemble from the nearby city of Toulouse was solid, if lower-key and less of a tribute to Bird than Di Battista's performance, with nearly everything coming together in pleasing yet intellectual nourishing fashion. But it's also why a show successful on a basic level can still disappoint in that fiendish expectations thing.
Some of it may have been the more arranged nature imparted by the strings, which were more prominent than a similar show by Wynton Marsalis a few days earlier. Some members of the ensemble performed short solos, and there was greater compositional and visual interaction between them and Woods, who was seated so he was playing to them as much as the crowd. He opened "Just Friends" with a balance and intellect of phrasing that carried through much of the night, but there wasn't a great deal that felt particularly lively or bop-like.
Then again, Woods wasn't necessarily seeking a close emulation of the Bird from start to finish.
"This song as far as I know has never been recorded by Charlie Parker," Woods said during the introduction of "The Thrill Is Gone." "That's why this is called 'Charlie Parker With Strings And More.' This is part of the 'more' part."
Woods may have been out-Parkered during a guest appearance by Jesse Davis on "Repetition." Everybody took advantage of a longer treatment than many of the night's 10 songs to stretch and loosen up a bit, but Davis' alto sax seemed to play quicker, over a greater range and with more punctuation than Woods. Drummer Douglas Sides also stood out on the tune, doing a fairly even-volume full-kit workout to some quirky flute accents and ensemble punctuation toward the end.
But if the show had a more sedate feel, some of Parker's whimsy came on the encore "Weep Willow For Me" which, after Woods said he really didn't feel like getting weepy, was played to the cadence of an up-tempo "All Blues."
None of this is meant to indicate it was a disappointing show - in fact, I hardly consider this a knowledgeable assessment. And that's the problem. Every time I hear Woods I think it's me - there's something I'm not getting in whatever it is elevating him from accomplished to elite status. Some day I'd love to spend an hour with him discussing his style and philosophy at a level I understand, so I'm truly hearing his music instead of just listening to it.
The finale by the Charlie Parker Legacy Band was one of a handful during the festival with a motivation-killing "around 1 a.m." start time, although it may have gone on earlier, given the relatively short preceding shows. There was no way I planned on staying for it, especially given the next night's lineup - featuring a true contender for the baddest alto on Earth in my judgment, playing with the group seemingly best suited to his strengths.
Coming up on day nine: Another sweet regional find, plus the overwhelming agony/ ecstasy of John Zorn.