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Iridium Double Bill: E.J. Strickland and Kendrick Scott

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E.J. Strickland Quintet & Kendrick Scott Oracle
The Iridium
New York, New York
March 3, 2010

This article will not be about the music. The music was great, as is to be expected from the two bands on the bill at the Iridium on this night. Group 1: E.J. Strickland (leader), Marcus Strickland, Tim Green, Luis Perdomo, Ben Williams. Killer. Group 2: Kendrick Scott (leader), Ben Wendel, Mike Moreno, Aaron Parks, Harish Ragavan. Spacey, but equally killer. MVP of the night: Williams. Dude just grooves like it's his business. And it is.

No, the music requires no explanation. What does bear discussion is the idea. For those who have been paying attention, the Iridium has become much more progressive with its bookings lately—keeping one foot firmly in the tradition with its continuing Monday night Les Paul Trio series as well as several tribute shows, while recognizing and supporting up-and-coming musicians with the other foot. One aspect of this great new support is the Iridium's series of Wednesday double bills in March. The concept: because the new artists don't draw as well as established ones, stick two of them on the same bill and hope to attract two mutually exclusive fanbases. Pretty simple, really.

First of all, big ups to the Iridium for putting together these double bills to help showcase some of the young talent on the jazz scene. For an established club to concern itself with promotion of Talent Deserving Wider Recognition is a real step forward. This is a format that, with some small adjustments, could be extremely successful in terms of getting great new music out to a different audience. However, as it stands, the format does not allow for really great music to be created. With just more than an hour per set, each group was given just over half an hour, barely enough time to get warmed up. And just as the audience was starting to absorb and feel one group's music, that group's portion of the set would abruptly end, and the next group would come on almost immediately—very difficult conditions, not helped by the Iridium's stickler management being very strict about time constraints. Having seen many of these amazing musicians in situations where they're able to stretch out, I can say with confidence that they have more to bring to the table than what was shown on Wednesday.

So what can be done to make this a better experience for all three constituencies—the musicians, the fans and the venue alike? Perhaps giving each band a full set, as opposed to dividing the two sets in half, would work better. And the Iridium could charge a (slightly) increased cover so that those who enter can experience both bands. Or the club could book both groups for two straight nights, with each group playing the opening set one night and closing the second night.

There are some details to work out, but this is a great new series worthy of the New York jazz community's support. The rest of the month of March, double bills include the JD Allen Trio & the Marcus Strickland Trio (March 17) and the John Escreet Project & Logan Richardson (March 24).

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