After checking out Charles Tolliver and then Nubya Garcia (see my previous blog post), the next gig for me was one of top Fusion: guitarist Mike Stern with keyboarder Jeff Lorber, Jimmy Haslip on bass and top drummer Dennis Chambers, with special guest guitarist Leni Stern rounding up the impressive line-up. Most of the repertoire came from their current album ‘Eleven’ and were compositions by Stern and Lorber – powerful rock and funk influenced melodic pieces, which gave lots of space for Mike and Jeff to improvise and both musicians delivered some extraordinaire soli on their respective instruments. Stern, whom I first saw with Miles Davis in 1982, still has the same clear sound on his guitar and is surely one of the best nowadays. His rock, jazz and blues informed playing is delivered with passion and fire … his wife Leni added some wonderful playing herself and touched everyone with a heartfelt vocal performance in the opening song. Lorber as well showed why he is one of the leading keyboard players of our time and a master of the genre. Haslip and Chambers drove the two main guys to amazing heights … simply incredible!!
The concert of American singer Stacey Kent and her excellent band, featuring Jim Tomlinson on saxes and flutes, Graham Harvey on piano and fender rhodes, Jeremy Brown on bass and Joah Morrison on bass was next for me and one I was looking forward to, as I like the lush and relaxed way this amazing singer is performing. Her mix of repertoire ranged from originals (written by Tomlinson, her husband and musical director) via standards to some classy Brazilian repertoire and a French song. Whether she sang in English or French or Portuguese, she made the songs work and the audience gladly went with her on this rewarding musical journey. Kent’s vocal control is outstanding and her delivery full of emotions. Tomlinson kept the band tight behind her and added some top improvisations to the mix. Harvey is an attentive and impressively supporting pianist, whose soli were as well serving the songs and were delicate and beautiful. Excellent!
On November 19th it was trumpet star Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, who performed with his stellar band in Madrid’s Teatro Fernán Gómez. At only 36 years of age, Scott is already a veteran leading his own bands, having started around 2005, with this year’s band probably one of the best so far. His sidemen for this tour in Europe were alto sax player Logan Richardson, pianist Lawrence Fields, bass player Max Mucha, drummer Corey Fonville and percussionist Weedie Braiham and they made Scott’s compositions groove and swing and .. whatever the song needed! Scott can’t hide that he is from New Orleans as the rhythms gave it away … but then his music, a mix of jazz in the past, present and future needs that groove. He bowed to Miles Davis with a powerful rendition of ‘Guinnevere’ in which Richardson and Scott performed impressively, played music from his own recordings as well as a stunningly beautiful new composition entitled ‘Songs she has never heard’. Beside the outstanding improvisations by Scott, especially Richardson and Fields impressed with their abilities and imagination. Polish bass player Mucha and Braiham and Fonville were exceptional in keeping the guys going. One of the shows of the year!!
Three days later it was time to go and hear John Scofield in a duo setting with singer and pianist Jon Cleary, with whom John recorded his 2009 album ‘Piety Street’ together with the cream of New Orleans’ musicians; an album I released at the time on EmArCy Records. Scofield and New Orleans resident Cleary performed repertoire that had its roots in the Crescent City and was a mix of well-known songs as well as compositions of lesser know musicians. Cleary is a wonderful pianist in the New Orleans tradition and an emotional singer, who brings life into these songs. Scofield in this set up is not only an outstanding soloist but supports Cleary perfectly and brings out the essence of the songs. His solo in ‘Fever’ was out of this world, disjointed to a degree, but making total musical sense. Same has to be said for Cleary’s piano solo in ‘My Baby Is In Love With Another Man’: powerful and captivating. Their performance of ‘Stardust’ was another highlight of the gig, as well as a beautiful rendition of ‘Talk To Me’, another gem unearthed by Cleary. One could feel the fun the guys had playing as a duo and performing this repertoire – Scofield was his usual magnificent self and Cleary right up there with him. An outstanding concert in many ways, that got the packed house going right from the start. Uplifting and fun, rough and touching … a wonderful show by two great artists!!!!
In the next blog I will review my last few concerts within the Madrid Jazz Festival 2019 plus a few new and exciting releases.