Burghausen Jazz Festival 2013
With the master class still taking place at Burghausen's music school, the invited faculty for those classes gave their own master class in mainstream jazz to another packed house at Wackerhalle on Thursday, March 14.
Coming out of the gate swinging, courtesy of bassist Abraham Laboriela man in constant motion and having lost none of his youthful energy, despite having put on a few pounds and a lot of gray hairs over the yearsand drummer Dennis Mackrel. De facto leader Claus Reichstaller was a potent force on trumpet and flugelhorn, but it was Jon Faddis who just about blew the roof off the hall with searing lines that reached up into the stratosphere, where few trumpeters are capable of going.
But Faddis wasn't all just about range; during a Latin-esque look at Clare Fischer's "Morning," he delivered a solo of near-vocal quality, an approach he used later in the set when, in an a cappella moment, he began to truly articulate like a voice with one hand on the trumpet, the other making motions that matched what he was saying through his instrument. Plenty of musicians talk about letting the music speak for themselves, but Faddis brought a whole new meaning to the idea.
With Benny Golson's soft tenor tone beautifully complemented by Nathan Davis' harder- edged tenor and soaring soprano, the two-trumpet, two-sax lineup was supported perfectly by pianist George Cables, who got plenty of solo opportunities as well. A highlight of the set came when Golsonlooking like a man of 50 rather than 84took the mike, saying, "I've a friend from New York who sends his greetings. He's a bit strange, though; his name is 'Killer Joe,'" from which the band kicked off an ambling version of one of Golson's most well-known compositions. When Golson wasn't playing, he was either cradling his horn or standing there with a big smilealways a big smileon his face, snapping his fingers and just digging on what was going on around him. There are those who say music keeps you young, and with Mackrel the baby of the band at 51 and the rest of the band in their sixties or beyond, the Jazz Master All Stars sure made a case for it.
Laboriel was a constant stream of visual energy; always a particularly muscular player on electric bass, but more about touch than volume, his solos invariably built to fever pitch, at times engaging the audience, at other times driving Mackrel to follow his rhythmic stops and starts.
Overall, it was a set heavy on swing and straight-ahead balladry, the kind of amicable cutting contest that, back in the day, helped aspiring jazz musicians cut their teeth and get their chops. Andreas Untereiner, a young trumpeter from the week's master class, was selected to sit in with the group on an incendiary closer, Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca," and proved that, while it's not happening nearly enough, the art of mentoring is still happening in some places, and certainly in Burghausen, with B-Jazz and its now two year-old Jazz Master classes.
Guitarist John Scofield, like so many other musicians of his generation, has often got so many projects going on that there are some which never get documented. With his next album a reunion of the Überjam band responsible for Überjam (Verve, 2002) and Up All Night (Verve, 2003), it looks like his Organic Trio, with organist Larry Goldings and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, is unlikely to get recorded (at least, anytime soon) and that's a shame, if its Burghausen performance was anything to go by.
Opening with a fast, swinging blues by saxophonist Joe Henderson, it's clear that the trio, about halfway through a 22-date European tour, was already firing on all cylinders. Goldings has been an occasional collaborator with Scofield since the guitarist's 1993 recording with saxophonist Eddie Harris, Hand Jive (Blue Note), but a lot's happened for him since then, including spending the last few years on the road with James Taylor, for whom he's the singer/songwriter's musical director. His stylistic breadth is the perfect complement for Scofield, whose career has taken so many twists and turnsfrom "concept" records like the New Orleans-centric Piety Street (EmArcy, 2009) and more specifically jazz-centric This Meets That (EmArcy, 2007), to his large ensemble reunion with composer/arranger Vince Mendoza on 54 (EmArcy, 2010) and a most unusual ballad album A Moment's Peace (EmArcy, 2011)that it's become almost impossible to keep track.
But the one thing upon which can always be counted is Scofield; he may shift gears regularly, but his singular voice is unmistakable, regardless of context, whether or not he employs a series of guitar effects boxes...or even if he changes guitars, as he has for this tour. When he last played at the TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival with the Piety Street Band, he surprised a lot of guitarists by playing a white Fender Stratocaster almost as often as his trusty old Ibanez hollowbody electric. Here, in Burghausen, it was another white guitar, but this time a Fender Telecaster, and if this show was anything to go by, he should stick with it. Running through an equally trusty Vox AC-30 amplifier (in this case, actually his own amplifier, one he keeps in Europe, and a real rarity at a time when travel costs force most guitarists to play through amps provided by the eventhopefully the make and model they want, but oftentimes not), the added twang and grit, especially in the low end of the instrument, really suited Scofield's approach, whether he adopted a warmer, cleaner tone or dirtier, more overdriven sound.
The seven-song set ranged from choice covers, like Ray Charles' "Cryin' Time," first heard on the guitarist's That's What I Say: John Scofield Plays the Music of Ray Charles (Verve, 2005), to Scofield originals like "Slinky" and a new song being played for the first time that evening, "Green Pajamas." There's a reason why Scofield continues to call on Goldingsmost recently on record with Scofield and drummer Jack DeJohnette in the Trio Beyond tribute to drummer Tony Williams, Saudades (ECM, 2006). Beyond being the right word for an exceptional player whose command of the Hammond B-3's broad tonal range is matched by his inimitable footwork on the pedals and modernistic approach to harmony that allows him, like Scofield, to take the music out with terrific tension, only to bring it back in at just the right time.
Hutchinson was the ideal rhythmic foil, as comfortable with a lazy, behind-the-beat backbeat as he was swinging hard or playing with delicate elegance on a balladic encore of Patty Page's hit, "The Tennessee Waltz." Ears open, he made this trio unequivocally an equilateral triangle where directional shifts could come from anyone, even though Scofield was the clear leader.
A main set-closing piece of funk gave Scofield the opportunity to push his blues-laden playing into Jimi Hendrix territory, with a riff-based piece that felt like something the iconic rock guitarist would have played with his Band of Gypsys, but with Scofield throwing in everything from reverse-attack lines to wah wah and gritty harmonics, Hendrix simply didn't possess the linguistic breadth (or, perhaps, more fairly: he didn't have the opportunity to develop one, passing away so young in 1970), and Scofield's ability to be both visceral and cerebral simultaneously made this show one of his best in recent memory.