Under the Big Top: Detroit's 31st Year Hits a High Note
After an absence of several years, saxophonist Branford Marsalis returned to Detroit with a slightly altered band. After joining Marsalis, pianist Joey Calderazzo, and bassist Eric Revis for a lengthy and impressive run, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts recently left the fold opening the door for the next new drum phenom. Justin Faulkner has found his niche with this band and Marsalis seemed to be inspired by this new unit. One of the main practitioners of what has been called "the burn," Marsalis and his cohorts packed quite a punch with such numbers as "Teo" and "Return of the Jitney Man." With shades of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," a rhapsodic "Hope" featured Calderazzo at length on a stunning solo.
Hard bop was the flavor of the day for the last two sets I would take in before hitting the road back to Cleveland. Back in the late '80s, alto man Bobby Watson co-led the group Horizon with drummer Victor Lewis. This group carried the flag for a new mainstream style that built upon the traditions of Art Blakey and Miles Davis. Their reunion in Detroit was something to celebrate and from the first note it was as if time had never really passed. A familiar sense of timelessness marks the music of Horace Silver and pianist Michael Weiss capitalized on this for a tribute to Silver. Trumpeter Randy Brecker, a Silver alumnus, would lead the front line with tenor man Wayne Escoffery as the ensemble would revisit such early numbers as "Enchantment," "Where You At?" and "Nica's Dream." One bone of contention would be that too little attention was paid to Silver's later work such as "Nutville" or "Mexican Hip Dance." Nonetheless, an obligatory encore of "Song for My Father" pleased an appreciative crowd.
C. Andrew Hovan