Montreux Jazz Festival 2010: Grand Geneva Finales
For the most part Jones, billed as Musical Director, held court at stage right and played master of ceremonies, introduced the tunes and provided anecdotal background. "I picked the greatest musicians I could for this," said Jones without a trace of exaggeration. The hype meter was on high, but for the most part the band lived up to their sequenced biographical praises and exceeded a widespread mix of stylistic expectations from the distinctly diverse crowd. Jones enjoys almost unparalleled prestige around this festival, and he had his trademark quality all over this show. He applied the "amazing" designation to the point of overkill after some movements, but most of his superlatives were accurate.
Whether this was the result of a few phone calls and a couple quick rehearsals or an extended group effort on multiple fronts , these fellows certainly played together well. News flash there? The surprise would be if a group this qualified didn't put out great music. All of the performers established individual instrumental impressions and each got ample solo time to make more elaborate personal statements.
Tonight's audience was quite a friendly fish stew themselves, with probably the most eclectic energy to be found. That didn't mean they were giving any free rides when the show started half an hour late. At ticket prices from 220 Swiss francs, or around 175 US bucks, there was understandable derision and impatient clapping. For what would have to be considered an elite crowd overall, it was obviously not the best impression to start with.
Then time became a footnote. Schedules went out the sculpted window as the jams ran almost twice as long as their scheduled 75 minute slot and the audience grooved happily. Any tardiness by the musicians was quickly forgotten. There was a great feeling of communion even though many songs kept direct elements of the performers various individual repertoires.
Richard Bona the well known bassist from Cameroon kicked off the festivities with a fine performance featured in his recent solo engagements, composed of multi-echoed effects and vocal loops. This primal chant sort of exercise sounded like a history of song around the world, and served as a fine foundation for the evening. We're giving Bona the MVP because he logged the most stage time both solo and in support.
Pianist Alfredo Rodriguez accompanied himself on foot percussion and smacked some scalding scales that drew a huge audience response. His Faziou piano sounded a ringing advertisement for the brand.
On "High Life," West African guitarist Lionel Loueke provided vocals with a crisp choral quality, and added dimensions with his effects pedal. During a subsequent, comedic scat sequence he sounded like a vast countryside's worth of tongue clicks. The audience ate it up with a glowing grin.
One high point was the counter balance between Loueke's Ivory Coast tenor and Bana's softer, high pitched responses. When they harmonized it was like a basement tapes version of Graceland. The two recently worked together on Louke's Mwaliku (Blue Note 2010) and the camaradarie was apparent. Some people near the stage sang along in Native dialects, and many patrons who sat stoically on the floor in a crowded standing room section appeared to be meditating.
Overall, the show came down to a rotating series of solos, which spread the wealth and added to the run of accumulated highlights without stretching anybody's charm too thin.
The three aforementioned non-percussionists got most of the featured moments, but Cuban drummer Francisco Mela and Brazilian rhythm king Paulinho Da Costa were equal contributors who kept great time. Mela had the most stage presence in the quartet, even when he played in a back up mode. Da Costa is said to be one of the most recorded major instrumentalists in history, and tonight he showed enough licks to fill many a skin stretched vault . The pair's percussion jam near the end of the show got one of the biggest responses of the night.
Some guest spots added to the highlight reel. Pianist Greg Phillinganes, who along with Loueke would stay on stage for Herbie Hancock's Imagine Project, showed the ability to mimic meters like a master. When he and Rodriguez turned a "Happy Birthday" duet got into a cutting contest on keys, it evolved into sweet spontanteity at an optimal octave.
16 year old vocalist Nikki Yanofsky reconnected with Jones while in Europe and was invited to participate here. She did three songs that showed why she has a growing reputation. She quickly worked past the age label though it remains an unavoidable subject, especially when most players around her are at least two or three times her years. Maybe her style was a bit too traditional for the format, and she avoided some call and response moves, but she did fine overall amongst distinguished company, and looks to be around quite a while.