All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

364

Babatunde Lea Quintet tributes Leon Thomas at Catalina Bar & Grill

Dee Dee McNeil By

Sign in to view read count
Babatunde Lea Quintet
Tribute to Leon Thomas
Catalina Bar & Grill
Hollywood, California
March 10, 2010
Four musicians quietly walked onto the Catalina Bar & Grill stage greeted by enthusiastic applause. But where was the bandleader? From the dressing room, Babatunde Lea sang to the packed room, with his strong voice filling the space like an evening prayer. He danced his way through the crowded tables, shaking a Shekere (a bead-covered gourd) and setting the tone for the quintet's opening night performance. Once he took his seat at the drums, Lea vocalized to an attentive crowd "I can sing a rainbow" with only rhythmic accompaniment. Patrice Rushen, poised at the grand piano, echoed the song with the words "red and yellow/ pink and green/orange and blue ... I can sing a rainbow" a cappella. Her words were followed by the captivating vocals of Dwight Trible, who repeated the same lyrics without musical accompaniment. Then, with a blast of drums and saxophone, the party was on! Next, Trible wowed the audience with his interpretation of "Boom-Boom-Boom-Boom," moving the musical mood from straight-ahead jazz to funk. Throughout the songs, Lea was charismatic and articulate on traps drums, inspiring his audience to dance in their seats. Rushen manipulated the keys with mastery, amazing her audience with the wonderful dexterity and harmonics she employs. That's how the quintet's Leon Thomas tribute began—high energy and exciting!
During the show, Lea explained he grew up and played gigs with Thomas years ago. He expressed deep respect for the legend's talent, remembering that he saw Thomas mesmerize First Baptist Church every Sunday. It was right then that the drummer recognized his mentor's immense talent—a talent that helped mold Lea's own musical direction. The innovative percussionist reminded an enraptured audience that we can not occupy the same space at the same time as another human being, but our spirits can. Finally, he said music was functional, and when talking about how commercials use jazz as a backdrop, he quipped, "They have John Coltrane selling jeeps."

The group excited us with tunes like "John Coltrane" and Trible's tender rendition of "Let the Rain Fall on Me," complimented by the gritty and tasteful saxophone licks of Ernie Watts. Gary Brown remained an undaunted force on upright bass, one that glued the rhythm section together in a powerful way. Speaking of power, the original composition by Watts entitled "Reaching Up" offered a tightly performed arrangement that showcased Lea's drum sophistication. As a master percussionist, he blends African, Caribbean and South American rhythms with funk, jazz and gospel, often playing both traps drums and congas simultaneously.

"Music is functional," he reminded us again. "Music is a resource like oil or water; it does the bidding of who controls it."

Proving his point, Lea invited Trible back to the stage, initiating him as the "voice of the 21st century." What a divine compliment to an imaginative and gifted vocalist. The quintet played "The Creator Has a Master Plan" followed by "Colors" from Umbo Weti: A Tribute To Leon Thomas (Montema Music, 2009), then the Thomas composition "Sun Song." Next came Lea's original song written to celebrate a piece of African art hanging in a San Francisco museum, titled "African Tapestry (Prayer for a Continent)." All in all, it was an exciting evening of colorful music, brilliant musicianship and a passionate celebration of Lea's recent CD release. (Umbo Weti is named after the yodeling style of Thomas, who borrowed his style from the Twa people of Central Africa.) The Babatunde Lea Quintet took us on a compelling musical trip through the African Diaspora, hunkering into the rich shores of jazz right here in Southern California.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Interviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
 

Suite Unseen :...

M.A.T. Music Theme Licensing GmbH
2010

buy
Umbo Weti

Umbo Weti

Motema Music
2009

buy
Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost

Suite Unseen:...

Motéma Music
2005

buy
Levels of Consciousness

Levels of...

Evidence Music
2004

buy
 

Soul Pools / Live At...

M.A.T. Music Theme Licensing GmbH
2003

buy
 

Level Of Intent

M.A.T. Music Theme Licensing GmbH
2003

buy

Related Articles

Read Liberty Ellman Trio at Crescent Arts Centre Live Reviews
Liberty Ellman Trio at Crescent Arts Centre
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 22, 2018
Read Tallinn Music Week 2018 Live Reviews
Tallinn Music Week 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: April 19, 2018
Read James Blood Ulmer and the Thing at Bochum Art Museum Live Reviews
James Blood Ulmer and the Thing at Bochum Art Museum
by Phillip Woolever
Published: April 17, 2018
Read Jocelyn Medina at Jazz at Kitano Live Reviews
Jocelyn Medina at Jazz at Kitano
by Tyran Grillo
Published: April 16, 2018
Read Marbin at The Firmament Live Reviews
Marbin at The Firmament
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 15, 2018
Read Big Ears Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Big Ears Festival 2018
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 13, 2018
Read "Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below" Live Reviews Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Meg Morley Trio at 606 Club" Live Reviews Meg Morley Trio at 606 Club
by Gareth Thomas
Published: April 13, 2018
Read "Isabella Lundgren at Bullret Jazz Club" Live Reviews Isabella Lundgren at Bullret Jazz Club
by Patrick Burnette
Published: November 25, 2017
Read "Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café" Live Reviews Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 2, 2018
Read "Kurrent Duo at The Bop Stop" Live Reviews Kurrent Duo at The Bop Stop
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: November 8, 2017