Blue Note 70th Anniversary Tour at the Kimmel Center
The evening began with a rendition of Horace Silver's "The Outlaw," well-arranged and delivered with a clean, sharp sound, with a fine alto solo by Wilson and rapid right-hand runs by Charlap a la Silver. Charlap alertly edged forward from his seat, and his well-honed playing was stunning throughout. The legacy of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers was acknowledged with Wayne Shorter's "United" arranged by Renee Rosnes. An energetic drum solo by Nash foretold his subsequent astonishing technique and hard, steady rhythmic pulse. The theme was stated by the horns, followed by bass, guitar, tenor sax, and drum solos. Peter Washington, who in appearance could have passed for the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, showed why he's regarded as one of the finest bassists in jazz today. A nod to Thelonious Monk, most of whose recordings were not with Blue Note, was nevertheless in "Evidence." Charlap's piano soloing highlighted Monk's off-center rhythm, while the trumpet, alto, tenor, and guitar solos seemed in doubt about what do with Monk in a straight-ahead format.
McCoy Tyner's classic "Search for Peace" from The Real McCoy was highlighted by a beautiful trumpet solo by Payton and a flute solo by Wilson, and constituted ballad relief from the rapid fire pace of the other numbers. The set concluded with Cedar Walton's "Mosaic," with glowing solos by Coltrane, Wilson, Payton, and Charlap. Nash's concluding drum solo was remarkable for its musical intelligence, powerful technique, and creative force. Payton mentioned, in connection with his survey of the audience about which Philly steak joint is the best (Gino's, Pats, or as one audience member added with a shout, "Jims!"), noted that Nash is a vegetarian. If his youthful appearance, Zen-like focus, and concentrated energy come from his diet, we should all be vegans!
For an encore the group performed Philadelphia legend Lee Morgan's "Party Time" in a fine arrangement by (Peter) Bernstein. The surprise of the evening came when Nash scat sang a solo. If Roy Haynes is any indication, drummers may harbor profound wishes to be vocalists. Nash did quite well at it.