summer sounds

I have written about Madeleine Peyroux many times, as I am a fan of her singing, phrasing and the trio format she lately performs in. This summer open air show was based on her latest release Secular Hymns, as was the last gig I saw of her in the Teatro Fernan Gomez last November. The trio with her on acoustic guitar, Jon Herington on electric guitar and Barak Mori on bass, is even more tight and together and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the concert, as did the audience, despite temperatures of more than 30 degrees Celsius at 9 pm. Beside the songs from Secular Hymns, the trio performed most of her best known covers – as usual paying a tribute to Leonard Cohen, making Randy Newman’s Guilty all her own and entertaining the audience with a song that is a pretended call to Donald Trump … They are tasteful in ballads, swinging when need to and maintain an overall high musical standard and Madeleine’s singing is still full of melodic invention. A great show, nothing less!

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Madeleine was followed on the stage by singer Jose James and his band, featuring James Francies on piano and keyboards, Nate Smith on drums and Josh Hari on bass. I hadn’t seen Jose in a while and it was good to hook up a bit before the show and then he went on and it was pretty cool: strong songs with heavy grooves, plus a few ballads of sheer beauty – this was more the R&B leaning James than the jazzy guy, but nevertheless, this stuff is funky and has its roots in jazz in any case. A great band with an outstanding singer .. in his gorgeous version of Lean On Me he sang immaculate and James Francies played a solo on the e-piano that was reminiscent of Les McCann, but still modern and all his own. There is not much more to say about the qualities of drummer Nate Smith that hasn’t be said and written in other places – he is just a driving force in this music and Josh Hari was the solid anchor they all needed. Jose James favourites like Trouble sounded fresh and powerful and everyone left with a smile after his final encore of Ain’t No Sunshine …. He’s got it all!!

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John Scofield’s Uberjam is one of my favourite of his various projects – having been started in 2002 with their first release, simply called Uberjam, then featuring Avi Bortnick on guitar, Jesse Murphy on bass and Adam Deitch on drums. The record was a surprise as this funky and groovy outfit used samples and electronic on record and stage – something Sco hadn’t really done before to that extent. That first version of the band toured in Europe and I was lucky enough to see them perform – so powerful and full of rhythmic ideas and wild grooves. In 2013 followed Uberjam Deux and Andy Hess replaced Jesse and Louis Cato drummed on some songs and was the drummer on the tour as well – I saw them in Berlin at the jazz festival then and loved every minute of it and now they came to Madrid and this time the drummer was Dennis Chambers! The repertoire was taken from both albums and they gave each song a lot of space to improvise and Bortnick and especially Scofield made the best use of that space with some incredible soli – sitting on top of some astonishing grooves by Chambers and Hess. This funk based, electronically enhanced groove band gives one of the best shows around at the moment – go and move your legs and listen – amazing!

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Once a year the Teatro Real becomes part of a little festival organised by Universal Music, where they present some of the their  top local and international acts in the 1400 seating venue – this year including among others Sting, Zucchero and Michel Camilo and Tomatito. This venue seemed to be the perfect place for them in terms of ambience and sound and style … I have seen the two perform in many different venues, but none of them felt so right for this duo than the Teatro Real. Playing material from all three releases in their Spain Trilogy (Spain, Spain Again, Spain Forever) it was clear right from the start that they had grown even closer musically, to the point that sometime one could only hear one sound – piano and guitar melted into one by being played perfectly together. From Libertango to Charlie Haden’s Our Spanish Love Song, via Eric Satie to Chick Corea or some originals, everything sounded as if composed for this duo. The best of the many shows I have seen by them and a deserved standing ovation after two encores. One of the best gigs of the year so far.

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