Saxophonist James Carter hasn’t performed in Madrid for a while and as I had been working with him on his Emarcy records, I was looking forward to see him again and with a new project entitled Elektrik Outlet. This new group features keyboarder Gerard Gibbs, who has so effectively played the organ in James’ previous trio, Ralphe Armstrong on bass and Alex White on drums. Wednesdays show was only the second gig of this group, which uses electronic effects to enhance their sounds and grooves, as this is truly a more funk based project that any other James did before. These guys can definitely groove – Carter blowing so hard that at one point he lost the mic on the soprano sax and just stepped closer to the audience and continued to play and we could still hear him well over the infectious bass grooves and drum shots. James has this incredible technical ability and uses it perfectly to fit the songs.. with the grooves of the trio behind him he could showcase his incredible circular breathing and spectacular sax runs …keeping it in the song and pushing his band to further limits … once these guys have played a few more gigs, this is going to be one hot show – it was already great here in Madrid, but I am sure there will be more to come. Not to be missed!!!
The Fred Hersch Trio with Hersch on piano, John Hebert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums has been playing together for many years now and have developed an almost telepathic way to communicate while playing together – which makes the music-making look and feel very easy and light, despite the difficulty of the compositions presented here. The majority of these were by Fred Hersch, from which for me the tribute he composed for British pianist John Taylor was the most touching. Like on their last trio album ‘Sunday Night at the Vanguard’, the guys performed Paul McCartneys ‘For No One’ and Monks ‘We See’ perfectly. The Trio’s playing almost feels understated, there is no showing off in any form and maybe because of that the music is so emotional and touching. The solo encore Hersch gave the thankful audience, alone would have been worth attending this show: a beautiful ballad whose emotional content brought tears to the eyes of the people sitting next to me. If music can create such strong emotions, it is at its best.
Saxophonist Melissa Aldana is growing in stature in the jazz world and rightly so: the show with her quartet featuring Sam Harris on piano, Pablo Menares on bass and Craig Weinrib on drums was energetic, intense and a great example in modern jazz improvising, as the group perfectly supported Aldana in her sax excursions with free playing, but always checking what her leader was up to, so musical context could be created. Outstanding her solo intro to ‘I Loves You Porgy’, which then the group performed beautifully. All in all a great show, which could have even been better if the drums wouldn’t have been too much upfront in the mix, making it sometimes hard to hear the exciting piano runs by Sam Harris.
Now that’s what I call a power trio: Chris Potter on saxes, sounds, samples, loops and electronics, Reuben Rogers on electric bass and Eric Harland on drums!!Starting their show with an extended version of The Police’s Synchronicity was a statement as such – this is modern jazz and we can take any starting point and then move freely around in the song to express what we want to communicate to our audience! Potter, using electronic and loops to empower his sound and use different colours within each song, played with a seldom heard intensity and bass and drums powered him to further impressive soloing when needed, or simply and sensitively supported his ideas. 5 compositions performed in a show of over 90 minutes …freedom to play around within a song, to go to new places and find new expressions as a group is an important part of this music, which only can be achieved by true masters of their instruments and musicians with an understanding for each other. Potter + Rogers + Harland = an amazing musical adventure of the highest level. Truly stunning music making and another contender for jazz gig of the year!!