31st Annual Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland
The organ summit that followed presented two distinct B-3 styles in the work of Cleveland legend Eddie Baccus, Sr., who favored a swinging line with an analytical edge, and Tony Monaco (on right), who was all-out, sweaty soul. Filled out by vibraphonist Cecil Rucker, saxophonist Chris Coles, guitarist Bobby Curry and drummer Perry Williams III, the group burned through hard-hitting R&B a la Jimmy Smith. Monaco, whose entire body works and suffers with his instrument, contorting his face into all manner of ecstatic grimaces, worked the crowd as is his wont. He went for high thrills and hit most of the time, shooting the audience down with a finger gun after especially tasty solos. Baccus, conversely, displayed little to no emotion, but touched off involving, if less physically powerful, statements that flowed as easily and naturally from him as did his breath. Rucker's vibes were a nice complement to the heavy organ sound, and his solos often surprised by refusing to complete expected lines, shifting instead and using space to patch together sharply cut collages. Coles never quite seemed to be in-step with the rest of the boys, Curry stayed mostly in a nice, bluesy Grant Green mode and Williams kept things steady (his one extended solo, on the group's third number, while eventually climbing to a climax, pounded on statically for so long, the time continuum seemed to shift). In fact, the set as a whole, dragged on a bit too long and was fattened at its middle by the surprise visit (or at least we were led to believe) by singer Michael Cady, who popped out from the wings to take over the show through two R&B jumpers, Horace Silver's "Filthy McNasty" and "Never Make a Move Too Soon."
After the show, the party shifted a few blocks east to Togo Suite, where Lovano and Krivda led an open jam session in memory of Willie Smith. The place filled steadily, with tables and chairs being carted here and there to accommodate the crowd that suddenly had packed the club to capacity. The enthusiasm amongst listeners and musicians alikeand the free intermingling of the two, and stars with studentsgave one hope for a rekindling of the jazz scene in Cleveland, if only it be sparked more often with such events as this.
April 21: Omar Sosa Afreecanos Quartet
The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland has, over the years, hosted the festival's most adventurous sets. This year was no different. Experimental Cuban pianist Omar Sosa (below) led his Afreecanos Quartet through stretching waves of Afro-Cuban beats from the 22nd century. Tucked into the crook of a grand piano loaded down with pedals, effects boards and other various electronic implements, and a Fender Rhodes, Sosa spent the evening interlacing classical flourishes with Cuban dance melodies, disco electronica and looping foreign-language chants and singing sprung from the devices at this fingertips. Saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum worked an array of traditional (African?) woodwind instruments in addition to his tenor, and pulled out an impressive collection of percussion instruments to shake about to the beat. Childo Tomas thumped away on electric bass and drummer Marque Gilmore supplied the polyrhythmic underpinnings.
Culled from the dance-hungry traditions of Africa and Cuba, the music pulsed with an exciting, limb-shaking force. But the heady mixture of traditional and electric sounds with voices both live and recorded, often reflected the shrinking world's violent clashing of cultures more than any smooth, festive pow-wow. Sosa and his mates were clearly enjoying themselves as they continually looked for new avenues to explore. And the audience was appreciative, its various feet a-tappin.' But Sosa's music looked to spin well beyond the dance floor. It succeeded ingeniously in capturing a wide scope of modern, global existence, which, for all its wonders, may be pumping and driving itself into collective oblivion.
April 22: Charlie Haden's Quartet West
This was the show of the festival. Lovano joined Haden, pianist Alan Broadbent and drummer Billy Hart to form a vibrant, experimental version of Haden's Quartet West. Opening with an easygoing take on Steve Kuhn's "Today I Am a Man," the band then transitioned to Haden's "Hello My Lovely," led by Broadbent's extended solo piano intro and featuring, later, Haden's strong, resounding bass lines that stepped up and down the instrument's neck to discover neat pockets of harmonic wonder. On his solo, Lovano ran with the slashing dynamic of the bass/piano interplay and fired his sax over tough, cutting terrain that nevertheless sounded a melodic echo.
Joe Lovano and Charlie Haden