Gent Jazz Festival: Days 1-4: July 5-8, 2012
Reid Anderson took more bass solos than usual, tending towards a percussively pronounced maltreatment of his strings. The trio still investigated space and pausing, and still packed a punch, but the themes took on a jazz life, and this was probably as close to the music's core as TBP will ever come. Even so, the soloing divisions certainly weren't conventionally demarcated, and seepage was still apparent. The delicately-formed tunes certainly bypassed the ordinary dynamics of a jazz soloing sequence.
Drummer Dave King was mostly manic, but in a contained fashion; the scale of the festival stage and crowd discouraging some of his usual microscopic percussion details. Anderson also took over the between-tune announcements, after many years of pianist Ethan Iverson's urbane deadpanning. Anderson was still deadpan, but more approachably humorous when following Iverson's surreal observations. Anderson joked about kidnapping Redman for the tour's duration, with the saxophonist quietly smiling. He was fully integrated, calmly strong-willed and not prone to an overabundance of storming outbreaks. The balance sounded just right within this ultimate ensemble of uncompromising individuals.
Since playing at this festival in 2009, singer Melody Gardot has conceived an entirely new stage show, and it is, indeed, a show rather than a plain old gig. Her touring band three years ago mostly just concerned itself with playing the songs, but now there's a new visually-aware concept to accompany her recent album, The Absence (Decca, 2012). The front of the stage was littered with what looked like harbor flotsam, and the lighting was set on the far side of moody, minimal and shadow-playing. Gardot came onstage garbed in an even more extreme version of her reclusive movie star wardrobe, singing and clapping and stamping her hoof, then sitting at the piano as her large band gradually took its place. She's put a lot of thought into the presentation, the pacing and the sparse-to-strutting dynamics of the show. Two gospelly backing singers, cello, percussion, Charnett Moffett on the bass, old sideman guitarist Mitchell Long and vigorous new sidekick, saxophonist Irwin Hall, all helped to spread Gardot's palette far towards the horizon.
Gardot has been exploring the entire globe for stylistic motifs, from Latin to African, jazz to reggae, fado to flamenco. Hall led his own spotlit segment, with an emphasis on crowd communion. Gardot switched to guitar, sitting at the front of the stage, confident and chatty with the audience, weaving explanatory tales between the songs, effortlessly natural in the name of entertainment rather than some forced, hollow crowd-manipulator. This was a fitting climax to the first week of the festival.