A Far-Out Concert Among the Stars

Jim Santella By

Sign in to view read count
Various Artists
In Geosynchronous Orbit
April 1, 2005

The International Space Station provided a suitable setting for the world's first jazz concert in space this morning. Weightlessness wasn't a problem for the artists, as they floated their melodies around the station's auditorium chamber with spontaneous kicks and rebounds. The music reverberated from the dull metal walls with an uplifting quality.

Recorded for a future airing on CBS-TV during prime time later this season, the concert was shown via closed-circuit television to a select group of media personnel and veteran journalists who had gathered together in NASA's Media Resource Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas for the affair. Refreshments included freeze-dried ice cream squeezed from little plastic tubes and powdered Tang that was mixed with cool water and sipped through an airtight straw.

The artists had transported to the International Space Station last week after an intensive conditioning program that brought their minds and bodies into alignment with the concert hall's ambience and climate. Their brief stay on the station meant long hours of jamming with like-minded artists, some of whom had never had the chance to work with the others before this event.

Trumpeter Clark Terry led off the program with his "Spacemen," which featured his little big band of tenor saxophonist Red Holloway, alto saxophonist Phil Woods, baritone saxophonist Haywood Henry, trumpeter Virgil Jones, trombonist Britt Woodman, pianist John Campbell, bassist Marcus McLaurine, and drummer Butch Ballard. Together, they created a fire that threatened to set off smoke alarms throughout the platform. As Terry alternated between flugelhorn and muted trumpet with left and right hands, he floated above the band in surprise. Not deterred one bit by this change in scenery, he continued to do his thing; however, Terry was later heard off-stage mumbling to himself about, "Why in the world would my waa-ma-po-dee spo-dee-bo-dee agent go and book me on this go-do-muff-ler hippity thack-a-whack-a-doo shaceship.

Violinist Billy Bang later performed his "Space Walk" with his trio. Guitarist James Emery and bassist John Lindberg added heavenly phrases that seemed to glide around the room along with the trio's leader.

Pianist Ben Sidram performed "Space Cowboy" with co-composer and guitarist Steve Miller, bassist Billy Peterson, drummer Gordon Knudtson, and alto saxophonist Phil Woods. Woods preferred to sit during the number, anchoring himself to the plush captain's chair with Velcro straps.

New Orleans vocalist Aaron Neville sang Fred Caliste's "Space Man" with a little help from his family. They had decided to combine this concert tour with a sight-seeing vacation. Neville said that he and his family enjoyed the view of Earth's Equator, but they were too far away to see their homes. Cyril Neville added, however, that he thought he had seen the moon over Miami, though, while returning to the stage from the break room.

Free jazz alto saxophonist Julius Hemphill performed his "In Space" in a duet with cellist Abdul Wadud. Both artists, with their feet anchored firmly on the floor, proceeded to amplify their spontaneous bursts of music with syncopated rhythms that needed no punctuation.

Trumpeter Eddie Henderson performed his "Time and Space" with his sextet that included soprano saxophonist Hadley Caliman, trombonist Julian Priester, pianist Patrice Rushen, bassist Paul Jackson and drummer Woody "Son Ship" Theus. Then, Rickie Lee Jones closed the performance with her "Deep Space," accompanied by guitarist Steve Lukather, trumpeter Jerry Hey, bassist Nathan East, drummer Steve Gadd, and conguero Lenny Castro.

After the performance, the artists gathered for a black & white Great Day in Space photograph that will be made available to the first one hundred CD owners. The concert will be made available on CD after it airs on television later this season.

April fools!


More Articles

Read The Cookers at Nighttown Live Reviews The Cookers at Nighttown
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: February 16, 2017
Read Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read Kronos Festival 2017 Live Reviews Kronos Festival 2017
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: February 12, 2017
Read The Wood Brothers at Higher Ground Live Reviews The Wood Brothers at Higher Ground
by Doug Collette
Published: February 10, 2017
Read "Matt Schofield at Nectar's" Live Reviews Matt Schofield at Nectar's
by Doug Collette
Published: July 11, 2016
Read "John Daversa Big Band at The Baked Potato" Live Reviews John Daversa Big Band at The Baked Potato
by Paul Naser
Published: June 3, 2016
Read "Quentin Baxter Quintet at Simons Center Recital Hall" Live Reviews Quentin Baxter Quintet at Simons Center Recital Hall
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: December 6, 2016
Read "Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Stockholm Jazz Festival 2016
by John Ephland
Published: November 14, 2016
Read "WOMAD 2016" Live Reviews WOMAD 2016
by Martin Longley
Published: August 15, 2016
Read "Gerry Malkin Quintet at the BeanRunner Café" Live Reviews Gerry Malkin Quintet at the BeanRunner Café
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 15, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!