BMW Jazz Festival 2012
Chick Corea warmed up his iconic piano trio on the Return To Forever staple, "La Fiesta." The sound was noticeably low. Fans protested, shouting for more piano, but nothing changed. The trio continued anyway, as bassist Stanley Clarke = 5737 added his own Return To Forever composition, the title track to Light As A Feather (Polydor, 1973). Corea flew up and down the piano with unbelievable lightnessproving, as always, that age hasn't slowed him one bit.
Sound remained an overarching issue. Corea and Clarke expressed continual frustration with their monitors while drummer Lenny White kept the music going. The sound issues were nothing too serious; however they seemed to disrupt the trio's chi. Again, the trio continued with a Return To Forever selection, this time rearranging the classic title track to No Mystery (Polydor, 1975), into which Corea and Clarke sparked new life by fragmenting its iconic jingle.
Corea, Clarke and White played as sharp as ever, though the house somehow lacked energy. "Ya'll are quiet tonight," White remarked early on. The crowd struggled to come together for an encore. Of course, the encore happened; however, it didn't quite feel organic. Corea, Clarke and White may have felt the same, quickly running down "500 Miles High" and departing.
The Clayton Brothers Quintet came out blazing on saxophonist Jeff Clayton's "Wild Man." A fresh Terrell Stafford (trumpet) was on absolute fire (enter bassist John Clayton's "stick of dynamite" metaphor), a dramatic Jeff Clayton flapping his hands to cool Stafford off. Pianist Gerald Clayton and drummer Obed Calvaire offered youthful energy and frenzied outbursts. Sound issues from the previous night appeared resolvedthe band immediately filled up the venue.
The quintet moved to selections off its 2010 Grammy-nominated album The New Song and Dance (ArtistShare). "Cha Cha Charletson" stood outsophisticated, soulful and danceable. Jeff, who rarely sits still ever, jigged to his mix of two dances: the cha- cha-cha and the Charleston. John cooled the mood with his bossa nova flavored "Terrell's Song," written to feature the unique horn blend between Jeff and Stafford. The horns struggled a bit to sync, but Stafford made up for it in his featured solo.
John Clayton refrained from any solos, instead assuming the director-overseer role. Adept in both jazz and classical worlds, the bassist only did what he does best, lyrically bowing the ballad "Emily," with tender accompaniment from his son, Gerald. The Clayton Brothers Quintet closed with Jeff's soulful "Jones Brothers"a fitting homage to another endeared jazz family.
Trombonist/trumpeter/singer Trombone Shorty is an amalgamation of everything hip since 1900. Shorty imitates the greats to the teeLouis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, James Brown and everyone elsethrowing them all on his stylish, rock-influenced back. As sax legend Maceo Parker later exclaimed, "Trombone Shorty is outta his mind!" Talent-wise, nobody quite compares with Shorty. He picks up just about every instrument (mind his trumpet lips!). But remember, he's 26, young and reckless. Given his concept, Shorty would probably take this as a compliment. Still, Shorty clearly has room to mature.
Shorty began a solo on a happy-go-lucky rock rendition of "On The Sunny Side of Street," screaming on trumpet. To start so high and loud, it's impossible to go much farther than a chorus. Shorty rounded his second and third chorus stagnating in the highest register. What can possible come next? Of course: circular breathing on a concert C for two-and-a-half choruses. The feat garnered a larger standing ovation than Ambrose Akinmusire's entire set. Shorty revealed a concerning realityshowmanship easily confounds the general audience. Shorty knows this and banks on it. The result: in the popular vote, he won the BMW Jazz Festival.
Shorty closed on drums. The drummer replaced the guitarist; the guitarist picked up the tenor sax, the tenor saxophonist the bass, the bassist the trumpet, the baritone saxophonist the trombone. Impressiveevery band member is a multi-instrumentalist! But that's all. That's the final act. And the audience likely remembered the act, but will probably forget how the song went.
Saxophonist Maceo Parker played the melody to Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll," then joked that he doesn't play jazz. Well, it's true. He doesn't. The most iconic funk saxophonist played funk (and not "Brazilian funk"). Fellow James Brown and George Clinton band mate Fred Wesley joined in rather casually, blowing timeless, feel-good trombone licks and enriching a countless number of hip horn riffs.
Saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis entered late to complete a JB Horns reunion. Lighting up a down-tempo soul number. His chops may have suffered, but he played with deep intention. The royalty of funk may gray, but their music is as young at heart as ever. The audience took advantage of the funk interlude to get in a full weekend's worth of dancing.