Category Archives: LIVE
It’s a real privilege to be able to listen to and watch quality live jazz from anywhere on the planet — like from my chair in front of my computer. That’s the gift NYC’s Smalls Jazz Club offers us with its live streaming audio and video.
I had the pleasure of checking out guitarist Libor Šmoldas along with Josef Fečo on bass, Tomáš Hobzek on drums, and pianist Petr Beneš during their second set via Smalls’ streaming video this past Monday night. Šmoldas’ quartet swung hard throughout a thoroughly entertaining set. He’s a warm, inventive straight-ahead guitarist with some great ideas and the chops to express them.
Towards the end of the set Šmoldas invited legendary bassist George Mraz to sit in for a tune and Mraz clearly enjoyed his moment with the group, soloing beautifully and closing the piece by quoting that classic bass line from Miles’ “All Blues.”
I’m really glad Libor Šmoldas brought his quartet to America all the way from the Czech Republic and even happier to be able to see and hear them live, even from a distance.
Last September, while New Orleans native and award-winning jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard was out touring in support of his latest album Choices, he and his group stopped by for a visit to the Tavis Smiley Show. They played two selections from the album: the title track and “A New World,” a performance you can catch further on in this post.
This wasn’t just another promotional talk show appearance in support of a musician’s latest album. Blanchard is one our greatest proponents of jazz. He’s both a link to tradition and a vital teacher and leader by example for up-and-coming players as jazz moves towards its future. Blanchard often uses his music to make important statements on the issues of the day. Tavis Smiley has always been a strong promoter of jazz and jazz musicians and is known to use the art of the interview as a tool for social enlightenment. This segment gives us a glimpse at how jazz can invigorate social commentary and how the infusion of social commentary into jazz music can drive jazz long into the future.
Smiley’s interview with Blanchard takes us from Blanchard’s New Orleans upbringing through his personal and professional reactions to hurricane Katrina and into his latest album Choices, where he uses the spontaneous spoken words of Dr. Cornel West to inspire his music and inform his audience. West implores us to lead lives of courage, compassion, and service, and now his message has a novel way of reaching an audience — through Blanchard’s recordings and performances.
Choices is just the latest in a long line of Blanchard’s socially-conscious endeavors, many centered on his home town of New Orleans. He placed his sorrow, rage, beautiful score and performances into long-time collaborator Spike Lee’s documentary on New Orleans after Katrina, When the Levees Broke – A Requiem In Four Acts. Blanchard has scored all of Lee’s films since 1991.
He’s also the artistic director of and teaches master classes for the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, which recently moved from its first home at the University of Southern California to Loyola University in New Orleans. The Institute is a big part of New Orleans’ ongoing rebirth and resurrection post-Katrina.
As a jazz fan, I’m really excited to see and hear Blanchard teaching, hiring, and inspiring the next generations of jazz musicians. And I’m thrilled to see him collaborating with Dr. Cornel West as well as Spike Lee, because merging jazz and social commentary might well serve to revitalize the music and keep it healthy.
Watch and listen to Terence Blanchard and just four of the musicians he’s hired and inspired down the years as they perform “Choices” and “A New World.”
The Tavis Smiley Show
4 September 2009
“Choices” and “A New World” 10:04
Give Jeremy Pelt credit for calling his cadre of super-talented young jazz men exactly what they are — men of honor. As young as he is, Pelt’s been known for a decade as one of the best we have on trumpet, and he keeps great company. Just last week his quintet made themselves at home at Duc des Lombards in Paris. We’re fortunate to have a brief glimpse of that evening, the club’s video mashup of “From a Life of the Same Name” and “Us/Them,” both from Pelt’s latest album Men of Honor.
Pelt’s new-traditional vision is supported by drummer Gerald Cleaver, bassist Dwayne Burno, tenor man JD Allen, and pianist Xavier Davis (in place of the album’s Danny Grissett). This is clearly a seasoned, together band. It’s a pleasure to listen to the quintet move gently through the opening of “From a Life of the Same Name” with Pelt and Allen harmonizing over Davis’ quiet explorations.
For the neo-bop burner “Us/Them” Pelt replaces his flugelhorn with his trumpet. Listen as Davis dialogues with Allen and Pelt before they launch fully into their respective solos, and Davis steps up to ride Burno and Cleaver’s pulse all the way out.
It’s a genuine privilege to hear and view these men of honor putting their stamp on some of the best of jazz tradition.
Jeremy Pelt Quintet
Duc des Lombards, Paris
5 April 2010
“From a Life of the Same Name” & “Us/Them” 9:35
Back in February Christian Scott and his quintet were on tour in support of his groundbreaking new jazz album, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow. This video catches the band in Berlin performing “Isadora.”
It’s a mesmerizing performance. “Isadora” is a slow sensual waltz held rhythmically together by Kristopher Funn’s bass and Jamire Wilson’s cymbals. His brushed snare swirls, an extension of Scott’s warm, muted, breathy tone. Pianist Milton Fletcher and guitarist Matt Stevens repeat a descending figure that keeps “Isadora” from drifting away completely, as Scott breathes the melody directly into our hearts.
I found myself drawn into this piece the way one might be lean in closer to someone when they lower their voice to tell you something special. Christian Scott has important stories to tell on Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, and this performance of “Isadora” is a wonderful invitation to listen closely.
I really like this video, which was shot from one rock-solid stable position. I’m able to look at the entire band from an audience member’s vantage point. Sometimes simplicity is a beautiful thing.
Christian Scott Quintet live in Berlin
18 February 2010
This is tenor sax jazz juggernaut Chris Potter’s thing, this live version of “The Wheel,” a funky turn from Potter’s 2006 release Underground.
But last July he was on stage in some mighty fine company — the rest of his current Underground lineup: guitarist Adam Rogers; ultra-versatile Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes; and mighty mighty Nate Smith behind the drums — and yeah, it seems there are times when Chris Potter just likes to stand back and be thrilled along with the rest of us.
Craig Taborn on the Fender Rhodes, his crunchy left hand part of the reason nobody misses the missing bass. Prowling low with that left, burning with his right, trading breaks with Rogers whose supple lines goose things along with a quiet intensity. The guitar and Rhodes on top of and inside that solid truncated funk Nate Smith is ringing out.
Smith’s right foot is the engine. Taborn’s locked in with Smith, eye to eye and beat for beat. It’s all the more tight, all the more funky because it only takes two. When Smith steps out for his own muscular break he heats things up even more, and when Potter finally returns, ready to break loose, the stage is set for a truly fine finish.
Chris Potter’s Underground
Jazz Open Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
24 July 2009
“The Wheel” 10:55
Three months after the release of their Quartet album, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Jeff Ballard lit up the stage in San Sebastian, Spain with the album’s opener, “A Night Away.”
When Mehldau solos he steals the moment, exchanging ideas with Grenadier, moving and shaping the pulse of the laid-back groove, and extending his feel-good vibe into the appreciative crowd.
Mehldau’s erstwhile band mate, sax man Joshua Redman, recently had this to say about the pianist:
His music just grooves. I mean, for all the complexity and all the harmonic rigor and all the technical prowess and all the lyricism, beneath it all is this incredible groove. His feel is unassailable. He has the best groove on the planet.
Take in this live version of “A Night Away” and let the groove move you.
Pat Metheny Brad Mehldau Quartet LIVE
Jazzaldia Festival, San Sebastian, Spain
28 July 2007
“A Night Away” 10:36