SFJAZZ Collective: Live 2010: 7th Annual Concert Tour (2010)
Despite a format that's become, by definition, formulaic, the SFJAZZ Collective has managed to defy weary predictability, releasing a new collection, each and every year, which pays a most modern tribute to another of jazz's most iconic figures. Every year since 2004, the Collective's members each select music from the chosen artist's discography, creating arrangements with both respect and a healthy dose of irreverence, in addition to contributing a new piece of original music intended to somehow fit within the broader contextual purview of the chosen artist's oeuvre. 2010's chosen artist was pianist/bandleader Horace Silver, and the three-disc, sixteen-track Live 2010: 7th Annual Concert Tour, culled from performances in the US and Europe, demonstrates that decades-old music needn't lose its contemporary relevancenot, at least, in the hands of a group this encyclopedic in its knowledge of tradition, but just as versed in the foundation of jazz as a living, breathing and forward-reaching thing.
And so, bassist Matt Penman's arrangement of "Sister Sadie," from Silver's Blowin' the Blues Away (Blue Note, 1959), gets a thorough makeover, with the pianist's bluesy melody buried in a mesh of polyrhythmic counterpoint, with alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón's dexterous solo blown over a weird hip hop amalgam, before leading to a fiery thematic reiteration that sets trumpeter Avishai Cohen's equally incendiary solo up, bolstered with kinetic energy by Penman, drummer Eric Harland and pianist Edward Simon. Simon's own work, like 2009's Poesia (CamJazz) tends to lean towards the pianist's lighter touch and cerebral lyricism, but here he proves comfortable in more assertive terrain, his own powerful arrangement of Silver's "Song for My Father" shuffled into a syncopated, Afro-Cuban 7/4 meter where both the pianist and Zenón solo at the nexus of considered intellect and unfettered abandon.
Barring Harris' absence for Live 2009, the previous two years have seen a constant Collective, though Zenón is the only member dating back to the 2004 edition that released its first outing. With the departure of trumpeter Dave Douglas, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and original pianist Renee Rosnesreplaced by Cohen, Mark Turner and Simon, respectively, what's most remarkable is that, despite a shift in individual voices, the SFJAZZ Collective's mandate has given it the personality that lends it a distinct complexion.
Original music like "Harlandia"with a knottily Midwestern vibe, following Cohen's introductory solo, that recalls the late Michael Brecker's "Itsbynne Reel," from Don't Try This at Home (Impulse!, 1988)demonstrates how far relatively emergent writers like Harland have come in just a few short years, while Robin Eubanks' "More Than Meets the Ear" continues the more established trombonist's exploration of a post-M-Base landscape. But no matter where the individual members' personal predilections lie, they always manage to imbue SFAJAZZ Collective them with the spirit of the artist being honored. As definitive of the modern mainstream as it gets, Live 2010: 7th Annual Concert Tour honors the triad of hard bop, soul jazz and lyrical balladry that so defined Silverand continues to do so, as the Collective pays equal tribute to legends like Silver that are still, thankfully, with us.
Track Listing: CD1: Cape Verdean Blues; Lonely Woman; More Than Meets the Ear; Collective Presence; Harlandia. CD2: Suite for Ward Martin Tavares; The Devil in the Details; Sister Sadie; Peace; Triple Threat; Song for My Father. CD3: Señor Blues; The Lady from Johannesburg; The Mystery of Water; Brotherhood II; Baghdad Blues.
Personnel: Miguel Zenón: alto saxophone; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone; Avishai Cohen: trumpet; Robin Eubanks: trombone; Stefon Harris: vibraphone; Edward Simon: piano; Matt Penman: bass; Eric Harland: drums.