Dubbed "a 'Massey Hall' for the modern era"—is 1953 really such ancient history?— Dreyfus Night in Paris
is actually a performance that took place nearly ten years ago and is only just seeing its release. The "Massey Hall" assertion is debatable given that the musicians here, though excellent, don't exactly match the calibre of Bird (aka Charlie Chan), Diz, Bud Powell, Mingus and Max Roach, but there can be no doubt that the set is impressive, full of solid playing from start to finish.
Lenny White and Kenny Garrett lead off this three-song set, though it's Marcus Miller who evokes cheers and applause from the audience as he plucks a few notes from his electric bass and settles into the funky groove of "Tutu," a chart Miller penned for the eponymous Miles Davis album in 1985. Petrucciani quickly follows his lead and gets comfortable himself; Garrett slides back in almost unnoticed to repeat the head. At sixteen minutes, this version is three times longer than Davis', but it seems to slip by as fast as one side of a 78. It's also a different animal. The original was a Davis vehicle with Miller's overdubs a la Bill Evans. Here "Tutu" is very much an organic ensemble piece.
"The King Is Gone" is a slower, smoother affair. Each soloist takes time to linger individually in the spotlight, one after the other. Lagrene is in fine form, but White gives a long, understated solo, perhaps under the impression that his one-minute start-stop intro was already enough. Early on Petrucciani throws in some low notes recalling Lear on the heath. He returns with something jauntier once the pace picks up. Garrett wrenches some violin-sounding laments from his alto sax to close out the tune.
"Looking Up," a Petrucciani chart, is last. Miller muscles his bass in, pulling and tapping, wholly at odds with the breezy mood the pianist is trying to create: imagine two men walking side-by-side, one skipping, one sauntering. The contrast makes a bit more sense when the whole thing starts to build to its freewheeling, hip-shaking peak, with Garrett at the lead. He then steps aside for Petrucciani, who runs with it for three minutes, finally bringing it to a hush for Lagrene to enter. Next Miller throws down with funk pyrotechnics.
No, Dreyfus Night in Paris
isn't as essential as the Massey Hall releases. But, like those famed recordings, it does have a multifarious appeal—something for the swingers, something for the funk addicts, something for the fusion crowd, something for the traditionalists—that suggests it will be able to transcend labels and find its way into many ears.
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