Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland 2012: Days 6-12
The experimentation continued on this night, when storied drummer and 2012 NEA Jazz Master Jack DeJohnette brought his group to the Tri-C Metro Auditorium. Playing to a disappointing turnout (there were, at best, 400 people in attendance) and absent their regular saxophonist, Rudresh Mahanthappa, the group nonetheless presented an invigorating program of outward-bound jazz music.
Filling in for Mahanthappa, reedist Don Byron opened the set on clarinet, easing into the music with regulated tones then breaking into fits and starts and hastily scribbled lines. This was, in fact, the general pattern of the evening for the group as a whole. Sticking largely to the set of DeJohnette compositions heard on Live at Yoshi's 2010 (Golden Beams, 2011), with only "Ahmad the Terrible" substituted for "Tango African," the group's music ebbed and flowed with a rather organic rise and fall of individual voicesor pairing or tripling of voices rather than the pointed rotation of soloists.
Guitarist David Fiuczynski, operating a double-neck instrument, often fashioned sliding lines fringed with a tightly constrained warblinga sound reminiscent of that produced by Chinese or Indian stringed instruments, if electrified here and accompanied by thick, crunching chords. Keyboardist George Colligan worked not only the piano and various sets of electric keys, but also pulled out the pocket trumpet on "Blue," providing further impressionistic recallalong with his bubbling keyboard tonesof the early electric jazz of which DeJohnette was a part with Miles Davis's group. On the closer, "Monk's Plum," Colligan did indeed adjust to a more spacious, jagged, Thelonious Monkish approach, but soon pushed on into Cecil Taylor terrain nicely tracing the line forward, intentionally or no. On acoustic bass guitar, Jerome Harris was at his most interesting vocalizing over his bass lines on that final number, creating an otherworldly dual tone.
For his part, DeJohnette sat back as conductor, appearing almost bored with the proceedings when not thundering away at the set. But, no doubt, it was more the continence of the master surveyor overseeing his field, the puppet master pulling strings with a clap here, a rhythmic shift there, to propel and form the piece to his liking. He silenced the others for a solo near the end of "Monk's Plum," raising tangled vines and shifting rhythmic patterns in a plum of his own, and providing a fitting, masterful close to a set that, through tunes like "One for Eric" (for Eric Dolphy), "Ahmad the Terrible" (for Ahmad Jamal) and "Monk's Plum" (for Monk, of course), had paid tribute to the great innovators who had come before.
"You wanna take it old school?!" Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews hailed the State Theatre crowd well into his bombastic performance with his Orleans Avenue septet. The David Sanborn Trio had already played an hour-long set of music largely focused on the Ray Charles aesthetic. And Shorty himself had just growled and grooved his way through his first overt Louis Armstrong tribute of the eveninga thumping version of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" that had him muting his trumpet with his left hand, firing off clipped statements and blowing a sustained, minutes-long single note (a gimmick that's giddily thrilling the first time you see it, groaningly tiresome thereafter). To a large extent, Sanborn and Shorty had taken it old school all night long.
Playing with a slightly revamped trioorganist Joey DeFrancesco retained on the Hammond B3, with drummer Jeremy Thomas brought on for his first gig with the group Sanborn blew his signature alto sound over a handful of tunes from his last two Decca releases, Here & Gone (2008) and Only Everything (2010), both tributes to Ray Charles and two of his saxophonists, Hank Crawford and David "Fathead" Newman. He also played two other tunes, opening with Ben Tucker's "Comin' Home Baby" and closing with Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel." The saxophonist blew his usual high-energy lines with waxed-paper sheen, but it was DeFrancesco that carried the show.
The organist maintained a heavy, skating groove behind Sanborn and pounded out bluesy, intriguing bass and treble lines that swam in and out of each other and morphed for powerfully throbbing conclusions. One such mash-up had DeFrancesco himself pumping his left fist in victory. He also proved himself a capable blues singer, belting out the lyrics to "Let the Good Times Roll" with all requisite growl and gusto. Tucker was givenor tooka good chunk of space on "Basin Street Blues" to craft a slow developing, but ultimately explosive drum solo that roiled on at length in full force, to the delight of the crowd that erupted as the drummer finally gave way. Sanborn then launched into the Jackson tune and was truly in his element running throughand improvising withinthe '80s pop melody. But at song's close, he looped his finger in the air and led his band off stage.
After a quick reconfiguring of the stage setup, Orleans Avenue was out blaring its hardcore brand of New Orleans jazz. Shorty paraded on stage with his implementstrombone and trumpethoisted overhead, set the smaller of the two aside and attacked the center-stage mike with some muscular slide action.
Running through songs from his albums Backatown (Verve, 2010) and For True (Verve, 2011), plus chestnuts like "Sunny Side," "St. James Infirmary," "I Got a Woman" and "When the Saints Go Marching In," Shorty and crew provided all the thump and blare the crowd could handle, with the trombonist ever the showman. Each solo was followed by exaggerated fatigue, with Shorty clownishly stumbling back from the microphone like the victim of a Rocky Balboa left hook (and so immediately recovering, also, to blow just as fiercely as before). He pranced and stoked the crowd as the others played, most notably guitarist Pete Murano, who tore off many a solo of hard rock persuasion.
Yet the group was perhaps at its most engaging when, at the show's finale, they discarded their electric instruments, hauled a couple drums to the edge of the stage, and blew "Down by the Riverside" in acoustic, second line fashion. Andrews jumped down from the stage and led the boys in a loop around the auditorium, before regaining the stage and blowing on for several more minutes to the chants of "Shorty!" "Shorty!" emanating from the crowd.