May 15th, The Bad Plus are in Madrid to perform 2 shows at the Café Berlin … a sold out 9 pm concert and a second one at 11 pm. David King, the trio’s drummer, had invited me to the first show and I went there with a friend who had purchased a ticket. Dave, Bassist Reid Anderson and new pianist Orrin Evans started the first show on time with mostly music from their first record together NEVER STOP II. I had heard the album and really love it, but live this is something beyond …. even so they knew each other from before and had performed together, now they are very tight, as the constant touring is paying off … Evans is incredible with his powerful, sometimes orchestral way of playing, then moving into beautiful and touching little melodies, always perfectly supported by Anderson and King. These two wonderful musicians are responsible (as in the past) for most of the compositions of the trio, which keeps the expected edgy quirkiness to their music. We loved every minute of this set and in the break went to say HI and then made our way to the exit as the club was emptied to make way for the new audience .. but the manager of the club, having seen us backstage with the guys, invited us for the second set, which wasn’t fully sold out and we were happy to stay – as the second set, without any repetition in repertoire, was even better than the first. Beside the amazing interplay between the three musicians, each of them delivered some outstanding solo work, with Anderson at one point calling up memories of Charlie Haden in the sheer beauty of his solo and by playing not one unnecessary note. Evans and King as well performed at the top of their game … a contender for gig of the year!!!
Saxophonist Eli Degibri started his 4-night residency at the Café Central in Madrid on May 23rd with his trusted sidemen Tom Oren on piano, Tamir Shmerling on bass and Evitar Slivnik on drums and a full house. The expressive sax player went through his own compositions from earlier records, with an especially wonderful rendition of ‘The Unknown Neighbor’ from the album ‘Cliff Hangin’’, plus a few new compositions, which will be on a forthcoming album. Not new in a sense is the standard ‘Like someone in love’, which Eli recorded already on his second album, but his new version is really different, as the group imagined how J. S. Bach might have played that song … to wondrous results: beautiful and melodic with an astonishing piano solo by Oren, that had Bach and Ella in it combined in a unique and breath-taking new way. ‘Bach’, still the working title of another new song, is a composition by Degibri, as well inspired by Bach and similar powerful and captivating. This was an absolutely impressive concert and I can’t wait to hear the recordings of the new material. Check Eli out if you get the chance … I am sure you’ll hear a lot from and of him in the near future.
May 28th brought Marcus Miller to Madrid to perform at the Teatro Nuevo Apolo with his incredible band featuring Marquis Hill on trumpet, Alex Han on sax, Brett Williams on keys and Alex Bailey on drums, plus the master himself on various electric basses and bass clarinet. They mostly performed the music from his latest album ‘Laid Black’, with the outstanding tracks here ‘Sublimity’ and ‘Trip Trap’, which had Miller performing a solo of unreal quality and funk power! Another highlight of the evening was ‘Hylife’ from the ‘Afrodeezia’ album and of course his nods to Miles Davis, this time with a wonderful and authentic version of ‘Bitches Brew’, as well as with his own compositions for the late trumpet legend, ‘Amandla’ and ‘Tutu’. Han and especially Hill did extremely well in these numbers, with incredible solo performances and ensemble play. A great band seemingly having fun on stage and enjoying the enthusiastic response from an audience that started dancing and singing at the end of the show to the performance of the Beatles song ‘Come Together’! Fantastic, groovy and smiles all around!!!