and Dominick Faranacci. The tradition of staging many free shows continued as well. And a welcome wrinkle came in the festival's reach into a broader array of Cleveland venues, including Severance Hall, The Hermit Club, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and various area churches.
," maintains an ever-cool demeanor, as his right hand releases fluid and intellectualyet soulfulpassages, while Floyd favors chest-tingling power and emotion over subtlety. In his introduction to the show, festival artistic director Willard Jenkins
dubbed Baccus the heavyweight champion, Floyd the contender. And, as they say, styles make fights.
And for several rounds, the bout was, indeed, enjoyable. Along with the organists, saxophonist Eddie Baccus, Jr., vibraphonist Cecil Rucker, guitarist Bobby Curry and drummer Perry Williams III ran through a set of hard-bop and R&B fare well suited to the band's makeup. The guys were up and the crowd was with them. Eddie Jr. blew deep, impassioned soul, Rucker pounded away in bright, if predictable, fashion, and Curry rode a relaxed, full tone. Floyd opened with vibrant, sustained notes, undercut by a swampy blues feela mode he adjusted nicely throughout the evening, attacking a power-soul core from various angles. Eddie Sr.'s solosintricately patterned counters to the bombast about himdelighted each time they rolled around. With a dexterity and nimbleness untouched, seemingly, by age, the Champ dictated multidimensional thoughts effortlessly, often lifting Floyd's preceding statements and twisting them into sharp, skating lines that rose, plummeted, broke and surged back upon themselves like waves.
But after a couple tunes, the program became predictable, following the same solo rotation and adding little new, with the exception of Eddie Sr.'s passages and some by Curry, in particular his sly quoting of "My Favorite Things," à la Grant Green
, in the midst of his "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" solo. Still, after eight tunes and 80 to 90 minutes, the group had turned in a lively set of jazz-organ music, and had reached a natural conclusion. Unfortunately, they went on, bringing guests Roger Baccus (Eddie Sr.'s organist brother) and singer Michael Cady onstage to push on to the two-hour mark. Better to have substituted these last numbers for a few of the first eight, instead of tacking them onto the end. Still, the set, undeniably, provided an energetic boot to get this year's party started.
April 28: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
The official kick-off day started with a second line parade featuring the Stooges Brass Band
from New Orleans and Cleveland's own celebrated Shaw High School Marching Band. They paraded from the Terminal Tower at Public Square a few blocks east to the House of Blues. There, the Stooges turned in a rollicking, at times slapstick, set that meshed traditional Crescent City jazz with hip-hop. Augmenting their amped brass attack with repeated calls like "We Got That Fire" and "You Gotta Wind It Up" (the latter as they split the audience for a dance contest), the Stooges duly stoked a crowd that ran broadly from those in their mid-teens up to middle-agers still fit (at least in mind's eye) to boogie.
Later came young New Orleans phenom Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, strutting on stage with his trombone and trumpet held aloft like boldly scored hunting trophies, the funk from his Orleans Avenue band thumping wickedly, heroically about him. Shorty soon joined in, his right leg set forward in a solid, athletic stance that supported the in-your-face blast from his trombone. He and his band never let up, keeping the crowd grooving to hits like "On Your Way Down" and "Something Beautiful" in the mode of what the horn player has termed "superfunk rock": a loud pulsing music that also incorporates heavy doses of traditional New Orleans jazz.
The most traditionaland most mellowthey got was on the swinging "Sunny Side of the Street," on which Shorty blew an impeccably phrased Louis Armstrong
trumpet solo, capped by a bright high note, stretched out for minutes without pause to the great delight of the crowd. But the band's take on the standard "St. James Infirmary," while equally pleasing on the surface, spooked with shades of necrophilia once more fully considered. There's something a touch creepy about addressing a girl's corpse ("So sweet, so cold, so fair") in a sexy-sweet, Stevie Wonder
and Mick Jagger, to complement his own, athletically flamboyant stage persona. That he has the considerable trombone, trumpet and vocal chops to back up the playacting (and a wonderfully accomplished bandthey all traded instruments on the encore and still kept up a powerful attack) means he's a new force on the scene that has to be reckoned with.