Gent Jazz Festival 2010: Days 1-5
Corea and Haynes were soon locking tight in a rapid exchange of rhythmic strikes, egging each other on, until McBride would deliver one of his largely unaccompanied solos. The speed and precision of his fingering was staggering to behold, and this is at the service of the music itself. Yes, he's showing off, but he's also telling a melodic tale. Garrett was so overcome by the energy that his solos would often climax with a barking, honking eruption, as if he couldn't find any other way to reach his peak. The octogenarian Haynes can join Paul Motian in the ranks of sticksmen who appear to be half of their real age. His stamina and strength remain remarkable. His accents include great heart-jumping explosions and some of the most delicate cymbal strokes possible.
The band's 90 minute set was compelling enough, but when it looked for a while as though they wouldn't be playing an encore, suddenly Haynes started rapping, then shifted to the drums and a gradual momentum took over for what turned into a completely spontaneous James Brown jam, for the next 30 minutes. It began with "Get On The Good Foot" and was then overtaken by "Sex Machine." Due to the massive amount of resourcefulness to draw from, this managed to sustain its quite remarkable vigour for a multi-phased rolling funkathon, which saw some unheard-of permutations as Garrett, McBride and Haynes passed the MC relay baton. Corea took a drum solo. Vijay Iyer took up a boogie woogie position at the other end of the piano and at one stage he, Corea and Hiromi were all sharing the same keyboard. She was the extra guest-member of Stanley Clarke's band, due to appear the following day, but it became clear at their gig the next night that the other players jumping up on stage were the drummer Ronald Bruner Jr and keyboardist Ruslan Sirota. By this time, the other members of Iyer's trio were also involved, with Marcus Gilmore taking up the funk-step, whilst bassist Stephan Crump soloed and vocalised simultaneously. The audience swiftly became crazed, urged into mass handclapping and singing, with Corea guiding the syncopations with his own off-beat palm-strikes.
It was very much like a jazz dream, but this was a waking reality. An absolutely incredible set turned into a massive marquee party. We might be accustomed to experiencing this kind of loosened-up session in a bar or club setting, with less stellar musicians involved, but this was the ultimate jazz superjam, on a mega-scale.
July 10: Toots Thielemans/The Stanley Clarke Band/The Julian Lage Group
Perhaps because of some confusion with his fellow guitarist Lage Lund, I'd filed Julian Lage away in my mind as a mellow-inclined painter of washes, having only heard a few of his tunes on the radio. Witnessing the (Julian) Lage band onstage turned out to be something of a revelation. It's always invigorating to see a band who are still slightly in awe of the large-crowd festival experience. There was a palpable sense that the Gent audience were discovering the stripling Lage too, both sides extending their tentacles and liking what they smelt/felt. This made the band work harder, genuinely communicating with music that was exceptionally entertaining, without losing its bite. The leader was joined by saxophonist Daniel Blake, celloman Aristides Rivas, bassist Jorge Roeder and percussionist Tupac Mantilla.
Mantilla had his percussion arranged in kit fashion, with an abundance of small Afro-Latin drums and North African/Middle Eastern frame drums. He was also using two cajons, one in bass drum position, with a foot-pedal, the other slapped in the traditional manner. Mantilla was so enthusiastic that he couldn't contain himself any longer, rushing over to use Roeder's upright bass as an extension of his kit. Lage would keep up the dynamism by prompting several in-band permutations, setting up fleeting duos or trios.
Lage employs a very metallic snap to his strings, playing with a percussive attack. There's almost no reverb, and his axe approaches the sound of a dobro. Indeed, there is a strong country aroma, with shades of Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and Willie Nelson to the sharp-picked runs. Lage embraces a multitude of American roots influences, even travelling across the ocean to the land of flamenco. He and his band emanated an unbridled enthusiasm, their mostly original compositions burning up the marquee.