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...

1

Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook

Troy Dostert By

Sign in to view read count
Terence Blanchard Quintet
Christ Church Cranbrook
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
December 23, 2017

The idea of inviting a jazz combo to help ring in the Christmas season isn't new to the folks at Christ Church Cranbrook. The Episcopal congregation in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan has sponsored a Christmas Eve jazz mass for three years running, with bassist Rodney Whitaker's hand-picked band becoming an essential holiday staple for many church members and guests. But this is just one aspect of the church's mission to engage the jazz world, as Rector Bill Danaher has been eager to forge musical partnerships with Detroit-based cultural organizations like the Carr Center, which will be collaborating with the church when it hosts an upcoming performance of Duke Ellington's Sacred Concert in 2018. Its historic neo-Gothic architecture alone renders Christ Church a magnificent space for such high-profile musical endeavors.

It thus made perfect sense to find Terence Blanchard on the schedule for a free Christmas concert on Saturday, December 23. The Grammy award-winning trumpeter, composer, and Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Jazz Chair of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra brought a quintet for an evening of seasonal favorites that delivered plenty of holiday delight to over 500 enthusiastic listeners. And with all the proceeds of a goodwill offering going to Haven, a local nonprofit dedicated to supporting victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, there was even more reason to rejoice at such a wonderful opportunity to commemorate the season.

Blanchard was joined by some old friends for the performance. Rodney Whitaker held the bass duties for Blanchard back in the 1990s during his tenure with Columbia Records, and pianist Aaron Parks joined him in the early 2000s on some of his Blue Note dates. The relative newcomers were vocalist Quiana Lynell and drummer Nate Winn , who rounded out the quintet.

Blanchard introduced Lynell, this year's winner of the Sarah Vaughan Vocal Competition, as a recent discovery. But she took the stage with poise and panache and brought a warmth and lighthearted humor to the night's proceedings that won the crowd convincingly from the opening tune, "Sleigh Ride," forward. Although the band's repertoire hewed closely to some of the most well-known Christmas standards, Lynell's creativity and impressive range fueled every piece, making each one come alive with an irresistible freshness.

Fans who came expecting the kind of boundary-stretching approach of Blanchard's E-Collective group (as featured on 2015's Breathless, for instance) may have been somewhat disappointed, as the band stayed locked into straight-ahead jazz mode. No excursions into electronics or R&B-flavored material were on offer. But it was an imaginative program nevertheless. Expansive, modal arrangements of "Sleigh Ride" and "Silent Night" left plenty of room for Lynell's vocal artistry as well as opportunities for Parks and Blanchard to stretch out, while "Let it Snow" pivoted back and forth between a laid-back, funky rhythm and straight-up swing. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" may have swung the hardest, with Lynell's perfect syncopation and gospel flourishes combining with Blanchard's feisty upper-register flurries to provide one of the evening's highlights. And the gritty blues-based treatment of "Merry Christmas, Baby" was the band's ultimate chance to let loose, with solo opportunities for all.

The music was just as stimulating during the quieter moments. Parks's gorgeous harmonic touches on "Christmas Song" gave new life to that most shopworn of holiday classics. And Lynell's astonishing rendition of "O Holy Night," accompanied only by Parks, revealed her prodigious classical training as she hit every note with ease, taking the audience with her into more devotional territory. While the entire band was superb, in many respects this was Lynell's night: she left no doubt of her talents as a skilled chanteuse and a major vocal presence.

By the end of the evening, Blanchard's quintet provided more than just memorable music performed with grace and dedication. Even more importantly, audience members were given another reminder of what the irrepressible spirit of jazz can do to enhance the yuletide season.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Mantra

Mantra

Terence Blanchard
A Tale of God's Will: Requiem...

Live Reviews
In Pictures
Live Reviews
Building a Jazz Library
CD/LP/Track Review
One LP
Read more articles
A Tale of God's Will: Requiem For Katrina

A Tale of God's Will:...

Blue Note Records
2019

buy
Live

Live

Blue Note
2018

buy
Breathless

Breathless

Blue Note Records
2015

buy
Magnetic

Magnetic

Blue Note Records
2013

buy
Watts

Watts

Self Produced
2010

buy
Choices

Choices

Concord Music Group
2009

buy

Related Articles

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 Meg Morley Trio at 606 Club Live Reviews
Meg Morley Trio at 606 Club
by Gareth Thomas
Published: April 13, 2018
Read "Shirlee Temper At The Empress Theatre" Live Reviews Shirlee Temper At The Empress Theatre
by Walter Atkins
Published: April 30, 2017
Read "Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner" Live Reviews Rossano Sportiello Trio at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: January 20, 2018
Read "Curtis Brothers At Scullers" Live Reviews Curtis Brothers At Scullers
by Steve Provizer
Published: February 28, 2018