That Washington gave so much space to a tune from his bassist that doesn't appear on The Epic
might seem unusual, but almost everyone in the saxophonist's group is a member of the "West Coast Get Down" collective; and every member of the collective is an in-demand player, striving to break down another boundary: that New York City is the centre of the jazz universe...rendering it difficult for jazz artists outside that city to garner the attention they deserve. Washington may be the first member of the collective to make a big noise, but with new albums in the offing by Mosley and pianist Cameron Graves
who may not have been a member of the touring group but appears on The Epic
it's hopeful that the strength of the collective...and the attention that Washington is bringing to it...will mean bright futures for the rest of its members.
Mosley also proved himself a capable singer on "Abraham," but it was Quinn, often seen whirling around with her arms outreached, who excelled at being a front-woman on the expansively anthemic "Henrietta Our Hero" and more buoyantly soulful set-closer, "The Rhythm Changes." When not singing lyrics, Quinn also contributed wordless voice to the group and, consequently, expanded the number of front-line melodic voices from four to five (when flautist/saxophonist Washington was onstage).
Washington proved a more than capable saxophonist, even on long-haul solos; and while everybody in the band was featured at least onceColeman receiving a little more space than Porter and saxophonist Washington, delivering consistently imaginative solos whether on electric piano, a Keytar-like Moog Liberator synth or a definitively funky Hohner Clavinetthere was no doubt that this was the saxophonist's gig. His introductions to the material were relaxed, engaging and entertaining, with stories of his childhood helping to dissolve the border between audience and group, creating an intimate, relaxed vibe despite the occasionally overpowering nature of the music. And after delivering nearly two hours of music that ranged from modal workouts to booty-shaking, hip hop-infused groove-meisters, the standing ovation was so enthusiastic (even more than usual for already effusive Ottawa audiences) that there was no denying the audience a final tune, which broke mould by being, rather than a more relaxed tune that would ratchet down the crowd's energy, was instead a chops-heavy burner featuring a searing tenor solo from Washington.
One of the other questions was how would Washington create a road-ready group capable of performing music from The Epic
and more, without the benefit of a larger core group and the added strings and choir? The good news was that Washington managed to scale down the music without losing any of its key ingredients. No, there was no choir or strings on "The Magnificent 7" but, with Quinn, the two Washingtons, Coleman and Porter, there was more than enough to deliver the key parts, driven with fierce energy by both drummers.
As an unofficial opener to TD Ottawa Jazz Festival 2016, Washington and his group put on a performance that will, no doubt, be talked about throughout the festival...and after it has concluded. It's too early to say whether or not Washington's show will emerge as one of the festival's best, but there's no doubt it was a great way to start the festival. John Scofield/Joe Lovano Quartet Jazz Warrior Series
National Arts Centre Theatre
June 25, 2016
Sometimes all you need is a good guitar, a good amp and a good cable. John Scofield
has, over the past four decades, made a name for himself in arenas ranging from his early days as a leader, from modernistic post-bop (1977's Live
) to a mid-'80s tenure with Miles Davis
(The Definitive Miles Davis at Montreux DVD Collection 1973-1991
). But even further, Scofield has spent time in the jazz fusion context of his '80s group with Dennis Chambers
(1986's Blue Matter
) and the jamband aesthetic of his collaborations with Medeski, Martin & Wood
(2011's In Case the World Changes Its Mind
), Gov't Mule (2015's Sco-Mule
) and his own Überjam Band (2013's Überjam Deux
). He's also kept room for a longstanding trio with Steve Swallow
and Bill Stewart
(2007's This Meets That
) and special projects including 2009's New Orleans-Informed Piety Street
and 2005's That's What I Say: John Scofield Plays the Music of Ray Charles
. Irrespective of context, Scofield's inimitable ability to blend the bluesy inflections of B.B. King
and chunky rhythms of Steve Cropper
with a sophisticatedand effortlessability to move his bop-informed melodic ideas in, out and around the core harmonies, has created a distinctive and unmistakable style filled with tension and release.