The material mostly (all?) new and drawn from the upcoming album Blues and Ballads. The morning of the concert---which happened to be the final one in their tour---he retweeted a bit from this review in the Boston Globe
[Brad Mehldau] flashed facets of his renowned pianism: crystalline touch, deep lyricism, harmonic sophistication, adroit use of space, and the otherworldly independence of his right and left hands.
I cannot really describe his style any better than this. If you get a chance to see him, go!
Elling was as usual accompanied by his long-time collaborator Laurence Hobgood on piano, as well as local heros Clark Sommers on bass and John McLean on guitar. This time, Quincy Davies was on drums. And this band is realiably excellent, as is Elling in any live setting. The set was dominated by pieces from his most recent record and augmented by a few other standout pieces. There is a pretty rich set of live music by Elling on YouTube, see for example On Broadway (which was part of the set in a wonderfully fast and funked-up variant), Golden Lady (from the previous album, and also played live this time) or for example this wonderful version of You Send Me (also part of the concert).
I snatched a photo or two (while at least turning my flash off, unlike the weird gal to my left, but I digress) and posted one on Google+.
This time, the format was a horn-free quintet with Lionel Loueke on guitar, James Genus on bass, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and Zakir Hussain on tabla. Hancock himself played mostly keyboards / synthesizer, even when he used the full piano as input. Overall the concert was little uneven--Hancock himself alluded to the fact that the five hadn't really practised together. At times they were rolling: the opening was a very rhythmic version of his very old standard Watermelon Man; the encore was a very rocking version of his best-selling pop-fusion hit Rockit. In between, it was sometimes wanting. Still, all five are tremendous artists and I also had a fabulous seat as shown in this Google+ post with a picture of Hancock's setup, including multiple screens. But they did not really connect with audience as a whole, and by the time the encore rolled around, the house was pretty empty.
And they were, of course, awesome. Great mix of standards as well as new stuff from the Grammy-nominated new recording. If you can see Kurt Elling live, go. Now. They return for another gig tonight and I will have to see if I can swing that.
This closed the 2012 series of the Unity Temple concerts and the setting was a little, well, weird. Look like mostly concert subscribers, with the commensurate age brackets, and not too many jazz folks. Not sure how many Patricia Barber, along with Larry Kohut on bass, won over, but I enjoyed it. I had secured front row (!!) seats in what is already an wonderfully intimate setting for such a duet concert.
See the Google+ link for a YouTube recording by her.
The program was titled Passion World and featured songs from around the world. Quite impressively, Elling actually sang in French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and of cause English. The program lacked a little bit of cohesion at times, but it was still a most enjoyable and solid two-hour set. A similar concert will take place in Minneapolis on Saturday, so for those near the Twin Cities I would recommended looking for tickets.
Now this requires some context. Earlier in the year, I had tweeted briefly about a Kurt Elling live concert still streaming on NPR, and truth be told, I have listened to Kurt Elling a whole lot ever since. The most recent album The Gate is fantastic, the Grammy-winner Dedicated to You (which retakes the very famous Coltrane/Hartman album) is beyond words, and The Messenger is worth it just for 'Nature Boy' and the funkiest-ever 'April in Paris'. I also saw him as part of a larger and otherwise rather neat tour. But I needed to see the man himself. So following what one can see from his touring calendar, I jotted down two October dates. Kurt Elling at the Green Mill. Fine. That was earlier in the summer.
Summer has a tendency of evaporating quickly, so here we were in October. And getting going late on Friday, so by the time we got the Green Mill, a long line had formed and we ended up paying tribute to the line for fourty-five minutes with nothing to show. Sad. Home we went, and no live music.
But somehow we mustered the energy to go again last night and thought we were early, arriving about 20 minutes before the show was to start. Ha! Others had appeared at 3pm, by 5pm all seats were gone. We were literally the last ones the get in after a short spell in a shorter line, and standing room-only it was. Oh, but what a treat we got. The set for these two days was Kurt Elling with the fourteen piece Klüvers Big Band from Denmark. They played for three marvellous sets, and well over four hours (with two 25 minute breaks). Pieces often alternated between big band arrangements and smaller pieces by Elling's standard rhythm band, and covered standards as well as Elling's catalogue. As I mentioned earlier on a short post (with pictures) on Google+, it is essentially impossible to not fall for Elling's stage presence when being so close to the stage. The man is just that good.
Elling and the Klüvers Big Band will now play for six nights at Birdland in New York followed by a night each in Washington, DC, and Boston. If you're around, do yourself a favour and go out to see them.
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.
It was evident how much joy Charles Lloyd still gets from performing live at his somewhat advanced age of 73. Surrounded by some extraordinary musicians, and clearly enjoying himself on stage. Great evening with wonderful jazz music from somewhere in between modern post-whatever, free, bop and hard bop, world music and everything else in between. I regret not having seen him earlier in life. Very much recommended.
All in all a great concert. Hard not to love when you twelve-man strong brass section featuring four trumpets, three trombones, five saxophones supported by a nice rhythm section of three. Recommended.
Given Allen Toussaint's live-long association with New Orleans, there was a lot of music inspired by the town, including a modern rendition of an old Sidney Bechet tune as well as other material came from his most recent album The Bright Mississippi. And, given Allen Toussaint's fame in Rhythm and Blues circles, there was lot of R&B too. I found the program to be a little uneven and unbalanced that way---but it was still a great show, and he surely brought the house down. He is a charming old school performer, and maybe the audience warmed his heart right before the concert started with a quick Happy Birthday rendition as yesterday was in fact his this 73rd birthday! Don Byron and Nicholas Payton were, as expected, stellar in their own right. A nice night out.
Regina Carter was presenting material from her current record 'Reverse Thread'. This was a real nice set of African-themed world music featuring Carter herself on violin, Yacouba Sissoko on kora, Will Holshouser on accordion, Chris Lightcap on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums. Some of pieces were really, really nicely done and I particularly enjoyed Holshouser on the accordion.
After the break, Esperanza Spalding come on for her `Chamber Music Society'. Lovely setup with Spalding on acoustic bass and vocals, Leo Genovese on piano/keyboards, Sara Caswell on violin, Lois Martin on viola, Jody Redhage on cello, the always impressice Terry Lyne Carrington on drums and Leala Cyr on backing vocals (and one co-lead in a really nice duet with Spalding). This was clearly more experimental and a chunk of the audience left during the act. But there is room for improvided chamber music, and it was a good modern music act. And Spalding is really quite impressive and I will gladly go and see her again.
The film, which is written, directed and producted by Dan Pritzker, is based loosely on the early years of Louis Armstrong in New Orleans. The movie is shot beautifully by Vilmos Zsigmond in blend of colour and black-and-white which works very well for invoking the early days of film. A key part of the production is of course the score, and the live music with both a thirteen-piece orchestra featuring Wynton Marsalis as well as piano solo recitals by Cecile Licad with an emphasis on pieces by 19th-century composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk. The combination of a silent movie with a stong live band is something to behold -- if you can catch the movie and performance in a city nearby, go!
Given that Dianne Reeves (who we had seen in just a few month earlier in our neighbourgood) has plenty of stage presence, the format made for a more intimate concert yet with plenty of groove at times too. The three had been touring in Europe for 25 shows, and it was a really nice performance and a great way to end the week. Recommend if you can catch them somewere.
The first set was performed as a (strictly acoustic) trio with Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums. After several compositions by Mehldau and a brazilian samba piece, the first set closed with a rendition of 'Holland' from Sufjan Stevens' album Michigan which was truly beautiful. The second set had Mehldau performing solo, again with several compositions of his own as well as one from Neil Young's classic 'The Needle and the Damage Done' leading two two pieces from the Sound of Music including an amazing, yet really different 'My favourite things' that just hushed a piece of the central melody along with a strond rhythmic element. Lovely. And then to cap it all off, four encores.
Shorter (ts, as) was playing with his quartet of recent years: Danilo Perez (p), John Patitucci (b) and Brian Blade (dr). And playing they did. Shorter has such a soft lyrical tone, which accentuates both the rhythmic and harmonic quality of the side men. Very enjoyable concert, fairly 'modern' and free in style. And no standards or old material. Oddly enough, not one spoken word: neither greeting nor good byes or just an introduction of the band. Recommended.
Yesterday's program was the SFJAZZ Collective: eight individuals, all noted in their own right, coming together for a few weeks each year to play as an ensemble. The program generally consists of two halfes: one with material by a modern composer -- Wayne Shorter is this year's pick -- and new original compositions by the band members.
This was a special treat as Wayne Shorter's compositions from the 1960s, both from the bands he lead and as a member of the legendary Miles Davis Quintet, have always been some of my most favourite modern pieces. At the same time, it gave me a chance to finally see Joe Lovano on ts and Stefon Harris on vb. Other band members were equally impressive: Dave Douglas tp, Miguel Zenon as, Robin Eubanks tb, Renee Rosnes p, Matt Penman b, Eric Harland dr. Favourite new composition of the night: 'Angel's Shares' by Penman.
All in all a nice evening out to cap off a busy week.
Looking the what I wrote in 2003 in one of the earliest entries here, I notice that she is touring with the same (excellent) band composed of Peter Martin (acoustic and electric piano), Reuben Rogers (acoustic and electric bass) and Greg Hutchinson on drums. This may explain some of the coherence on stage...
Anyway, wonderful concert, wonderful artist and definitely highly recommended as a live performer.
Two choirs comprising 120 singers, a full jazz (big) band with drums, electric and acoustic bass, electric organ, piano and about twenty brass instruments as well as an equal number of strings in the symphonic section, plus vocalists Rob Dixon (tenor), Victor Trent Cook (counter tenor) and Alfreda Burke (soprena) made for a very full sound in this beautiful theater.
For apparent scheduling problems, the performance was moved from the Christmas season (in which Haendel's original Messiah is rather popular) to the Martin Luther King birthday weekend, which is appropriate enough. Even though quite a few seats were empty, the musicians had little problem to get the audience onto their feat with a fine performance, and a rousing finale. Recommended.
 Not sure where the Umlaut went missing there. Oh well.
The surprise revelation of the evening, though, was Ars Nova, a standard quintet (tenor, alto, piano, bass, drums) composed of a mix of current students of the local high school OPRF as well as former students now spread across area music programs as well as Berklee. They played a set of modern classics and were really impressive. No web site to link to, unfortunately.
The concert was pretty good, yet had some rought edges -- but I think I give it slightly better marks than the Globe and Mail's review from the Toronto concert earlier this week. Hancock does have a unique blend of combining lucid, poetic sequences with powerful and funky grooves; I could listen to him over and over again. I had never seen Brecker before, who was pretty impressive as was Hargrove who I'd seen twice before (once leading his band). Terri Lyne Carrington was her usual excellent self at drums, and Scott Colley was fine on base. The program was a good blend of classic hard bop and modern. combined with an updated version of fusion. I was a little ambivalent towards the electronic part at first, but warmed up to it. Oh, and it was the first time I've seen musicians announce two iMac G5 computers as instruments. All told, pretty good. I look forward to the album -- given that the live concert from their last tour garnerned a Grammy, I guess we'd see something in store by Christmas.
I guess it has been almost a decade since I saw him last back in France, but he clearly is one of my all-time favourite musicians. The repertoire tonight spanned material from his awesome 60s recordings on Blue Note to the newer material from the 90s, and it was all delivered in such a lyrical way that is really unique to him. Seeing Wayne Shorter live was also neat; I don't think I've seen him since maybe 1987 or so in London. Gee, I'm starting to sound really old. Anyway, Hancock will play one more next week with Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. I should see if I can still get tickets...
Which is too bad, because she is really good, with a very wide vocal range and unbelievable control. She did a few pieces from her previous albums as well as some that should come in the fall -- she recently signed with Sony and just finished recording a first album for them. Lisa got us awesome seats in orchestra pit -- second row, to the side. Close up and personal. Real nice, all told, and just too bad the audience didn't get more into it.
Opening act was Roy Hargove with his quintet, which was pleasant too. I think the previous time we saw may have been in a quartet setting, and Justin Robinson on alto added a lot tonight.