Roberta Gambarini Dazzles, Jordan Family Inspires in Saratoga Springs, NY
The concert ignited with a rarely heard McCoy Tyner piece, "Fly With the Wind" (the title cut from a 1976 release). It sizzled as Kent's fierce flute and Rachel's violin helped give the band a huge sound. Other burners on the program docket included Ellington-Tizol's "Caravan," which had Marlon screaming out some palpable soul. Also, a tip of the hat to the young drummer, John Jones, whose polyrhythms raised the music up a notch as needed and who always had interesting things to say, adding tension as well as fire. Stephanie was sassy and sweet on the swinging "The Great City" and poignant on "You Don't Know What Love Is," done with the right melancholy touch, which the violin helped bring out.
On the down side, the band kind of misstepped on Bird's "Au Privaveâ" and stumbled through a Monk tune. They never hit the stride or the right synch on these bebop-era gems, and Kent's playing of what appeared to be a piccolo seemed to consist of repeating a few notes fast and loud ad nauseam. No real creativity.
But the group redeemed itself with a version of "Here's to Life," the song indelibly associated with Shirley Horn. It's impossible to top the incredible signature Horn performance, but Stephanie was eloquent, as was Marlon, in getting the inspiring lyric across. Also a treat was Stephanie's treatment of Abbey Lincoln's "Throw It Away." She showed she could be hip without being preachy. (So does Abbey, come to think of it. If only more listeners started paying attention to Lincoln's original music.)
A good set from a soulful group of resilient and uplifting musicians.