Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland 2011: Days 4-6
Later that evening, the JazzFest faithful packed into Nighttown's music room for another free program featuring trumpeter Maurice Brown's quintet. Sporting a red suede jacket with the likeness of Jimi Hendrix stamped on its back, Brown led his crew through the better part of his 2010 album, The Cycle of Love (Brown), playing the record's first six tunes in order before breaking to "It's a New Day," from Hip to Bop (Brown, 2004), then returning to Cycle's title track and "Daydreams."
True to his Mo' Better nickname, Brown's compositions offered in their melodies a pleasing Branford Marsalis-style flavor. The solos then reached for the rafters, with both Brown and saxophonist Chelsea Baratz looking to raise voices and bodies from Nighttown's tables. Brown proved the more effective. For while Baratz's solos were indeed spirited, they were also more or less of a piece as she predictably ran through changes. Brown wailed and blared with a more diverse attack, showing off wild, technical skillsometimes thrillingly so, other times in self-serving (rather than music-serving) blasts. Pianist Chris Rob offered up some of the evening's most interesting passages, with complex yet lyrical touches that recalled Robert Glasper's playing. Rob took to the mike on "The Cycle of Love," bending the show toward R&B with his smooth vocals. This after he'd stoked some call-and-response crowd participation on the preceding "Hip to Bop." He went back to the crowd on the encore, a wonderfully inventive take on Ellington's "The Mooche." "Do you feel the spirit?" he sang after some high-end pianistic scrambling and a break for Baratz's best solo of the night. Say "hip hop!" Rob then instructed, before cutting into a rap. Later, he tempted Brown into an extended rap that had both the band and its crowd happily moving. It had the feeling of a band finally breaking loose from self-imposed bonds to play the true music of its heart. Brown & Co. never sounded fresher than at the close.
Saxophonist Dave Sterner's show at Brothers Lounge on Cleveland's West Side had the feel of a late '50s hard-bop club date, if with greaterand highly infectiousmelodic content and the complete lack of cigarette smoke. The lively, inventive soloing from Sterner's quintet danced and pounded with the smooth force of Sugar Ray Robinson. Sterner stuck mainly to alto sax, but also brought out the soprano, most notably on the breezy, but bittersweet ode to his late father, "Waltz for Pop," from his debut album What's What (Catapult, 2006). Most of the other tunes were pulled from his sophomore effort, Sidetracked (Speak Jazz, 2011), released a month prior to this set, with Wayne Shorter's "One By One" also popping up in the early going.
From left: Dave Sterner, Paul Samuels, Chris Burge
Sterner came with an aggressive bent, but his lines rarely tore jagged edges. Rather, they cut cleanly with a power stemming from the saxophonist's highly developed melodic sensea quality in great evidence in all his compositions. Tenor saxophonist Chris Burge proved himself a fine complement to Sterner, running strong, authoritative, shifting statements in a Dexter Gordon mode. Switching to baritone sax, Burge turned in a bluesy, pleasantly abrasive gem in rendering "'Round Midnight." As on the Sidetracked recording, Sterner's ballad "Waiting" rolled and pulsed with the effortless feel of a mind left to pass its time in the enjoyable act of developing, relinquishing and redeveloping its thoughts (even though Glenn Holmes' bass overdrove the speakers at times with a grubby, distracting reverb). Keyboardist Roger Friedman dished out hard, jumping bop solos throughout the evening, and his composition "Not Quite Yet" gave some solo space for drummer Paul Samuels, who mostly kept to delivering rock-solid rhythms behind the others. Still, melody was king on this night, with lively tunes almost predestined to be hummed again and again over the coming days.
All Photos: Matt Marshall
Days 1-3 | Days 4-6 | Days 8-10 |