Detroit Jazz Festival: Detroit, MI September 2-5, 2011
Opting for a change of pace to wrap up the evening, by taking a long walk over to the Main Stage at Campus Martius, technical difficulties meant a lengthy delay in the start of Brazilian icon Ivan Lins' show. Patience started to wane as the eleven o'clock start time for the rescheduled fireworks loomed closer. While Lins' voice seemed to waver at times, and his keyboard skills were not on par with the rest of the musicians in his quartet, the overall results were nonetheless significant. Lins managed to squeeze in several of his crowd pleasers, including "Comecar de Novo" and "Velas." Still, it would prove to be an abbreviated set.
One step outside on Labor Day morning, and you could feel that the chill of autumn was likely just around the corner. Surely attendance numbers would reflect a smaller crowd this year and yet no one should take the blame on that one, considering the profusion of dramatic weather. Just a few blocks away, President Obama was set to speak before a substantial throng, and that surely accounted for the modest few gathered at the Amphitheatre for a 1:30 pm set by The New Gary Burton Quartet, although the house was full by the end of the show.
Easily one of the best performances of the festival, Burton reinvented himself with a musical outlook that was in step with the current generation. Mixing in standards and tunes written by his new band mates, Burton's genius came through, not only in his own solos, but also in the chemistry that took place between guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Antonio Sanchez.
Lage was certainly the ringer here, and his comparisons to Pat Metheny were understandable. He even sported a guitar made by Linda Manzer, a luthier who also happens to have worked with Metheny for many years. But make no mistake, Lage is his own man and his kaleidoscopic sound took in a little bit of everything, a fact gleaned from a marvelous solo feature that morphed from free form into a gentle "My Funny Valentine."
Another obvious Metheny connection comes via Sanchez, who has been employed by the guitarist for many years now. His own muse is marked by a mature sense of composition. Both "Common Ground" and "Did You Get It?" provided ample structures for improvisation, including his own technically brilliant drum solos. Burton and company afforded a superb conclusion for a weekend smorgasbord of music. So, while several more performers waited in the wings, the long trip back home was calling my name. Despite the elements, the show did indeed go on. In fact, it did so with a vengeance, and the sheer volume of music that always accompanies this festival marks it as one of the best in the world, and certainly a treasure as the reigning largest free jazz festival in North America.
All Photos: C. Andrew Hovan