Sat, 11 Jun 2011

United Sounds of America: New York

Last night was the kick-off concert in a series the Chicago Symphony has been preparing (and pushing) for the last little while: United Sounds of America: A Journey through Musical Roots. Five concerts featuring New York (last night), Chicago/Route 66 (tonight), New Orleans (tomorrow), Detroit (next Friday) and Austin (next Saturday).

The New York evening was organized by pianist Bill Charlap (wikipedia) who also headlined and MC-ed the first set. Covering the birth of Jazz until early post-war bebop in chronological fashion, it was a pretty decent jazz set with a very nice band featuring Kenny Washington (dr), Peter Washington (b), Jeremy Pelt (tp), Jimmy Greene (ts) and Ken Peplowski (cl) --- and local favourite Kurt Elling (wikipedia) who was simply outstanding with the classic songbook material. Having seen him live once before a few years ago, I happened to listen a lot to Elling of late, following the random find of this stream from a live concert in February as well as his two most recent records, the Grammy-winning Dedicated to You (which retakes the wonderful Coltrane/Hartman album from 1963) and the simply amazing very recent The Gate (which you should go and buy right now). And I was not disappointed. He has a great four-octave-spanning baritone voice and great stage presence.

The second set was dedicated to post-war folk and singer/songwriter material and organized by Suzanne Vega. That was neat too, if somewhat different in format and more like your standard (rock-ish) concert. Vega brought her own band featuring Gerry Leonard (g), Mike Visceglia (b), Graham Hawthorne (dr) along with guest appearances by Tom Paxton (g, vocals) and Richard Julian (g, vocals). Somehow Vega seems a little trapped in her own success in the 1980s and rehashed a lot of old hits. Nothing wrong that per se as it is good material (more on that below). Only during three encores did she provide new material which was ... excellent. So maybe some rebalancing towards new stuff was neat. Also nice was the additiona of four string players from the Chicago Symphony which had joined the band for a Simon and Garfunkel's song The Boxer. Oh, and of course seeing Vega perform Tom's Diner was nice, especially in such a fast and rocking version, even enhanced by the those strings. Just a few months ago I had gone over the passage from the original a-capella version of Tom's Diner to the various beat-box remixes which were then remixed by Vega in various live performances (e.g. videos of a capella, rockish, another rockish and beatboxish versions). Good fun, and it is nice to see she is playing along and enjoying it as well.

All told, a really nice iniative by the CSO. If you're in Chicagoland, go and see some of the remaining shows.

/music/jazz/live | permanent link