The state of jazz is faltering. The Statesmen of Jazz, luckily, hope to change that. The organization, overseen by Mathew Domber, makes it its mission to spread jazz internationally with workshops and concerts. VCU hosted one of each today with the quintet of highly talented and experienced musicians. The group made up of Chuck Redd […]
The state of jazz is faltering. The Statesmen of Jazz, luckily, hope to change that. The organization, overseen by Mathew Domber, makes it its mission to spread jazz internationally with workshops and concerts. VCU hosted one of each today with the quintet of highly talented and experienced musicians. The group made up of Chuck Redd (vibraphone), Houston Person (tenor saxophone), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Mickey Roker (drums), and Tamir Hendelman (piano), showed the crowd how it’s done this evening with a 90-minute set of straight-ahead jazz.
Each of the musicians is a character in himself, most noticeably the enthusiastic and wise Roker and the sarcastic yet passionate Person. Roker, like any great drummer, plays like a cheerleader on the sideline, not imposing on the soloists but instead supporting and motivating them.
Hendelman’s greatest quality was certainly his sensitivity with dynamics and ease of sudden shifts in his own playing’s volume, soloing like an itchy finger on a volume knob. The shifts captivated the audience, and even kept the rhythm section on their toes. Quotes were abundant in his soloing. At first subtly hinted at, his quote quota seemed to accumulate with each tune, eventually resulting in allusions to “Four,” “Perdido,” and “Rhapsody in Blue, ” as well as others within a just a couple of minutes of one of the tunes played.
Redd, in this setting a two-mallet vibraphonist, takes after the legendary Milt Jackson with his playing, his band-leading, and even his choice of mallets. On “Get Happy,” he flew over the quick descending harmony of the bridge with ease, and throughout the evening traversed the range of his keyboard as calmly as can be.
“Get Happy” also saw stellar solos from Person and Roker, the latter soloing with power and intensity that is often likened to the drumming of Elvin Jones. After this solo–which seemed to sing the chord changes with pounded cymbals and screaming drums–that standard may have to be reevaluated.
Person’s playing danced, especially during the set’s third tune, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” On the penultimate piece, “Soppin’ the Biscuit,” he killed on the slow swaying beat and bluesy theme. Roker described Cranshaw as “the rock of Gibraltar,” and the bassist proved it throughout the evening.
Changing the state of jazz seems like an impossible task, but educating one community at a time is a challenge this quintet is willing to try.
Glows in the Dark debuted guitarist and band leader Scott Burton’s homage to horror film director and composer John Carpenter at Commercial Taphouse this evening. The nine-piece suite practically defined music of the horror film idiom, and was genuinely frightening. I often found myself getting goosebumps or feeling my stomach sink, which only horror films (and roller coasters) can achieve.
While much is to be owed to Carpenter’s compositions, much is also to be said about the brilliance of Burton’s arrangements, which often combined cues to create pieces that the quintet could work with, or as he writes,” to be able to function as material we would normally play.” The first few pieces were shocking as I became acclimated with the suspense embedded in the music, which was complete with the eerie extended portamentos and glissandos that horror films–even modern horror blockbusters–would be nothing without.
Look out for the complete set for download — if it’s released — on Scott’s blog, Glowing Realm.