June 2007 Archives
A New Orleans prosecutor's decision yesterday to dismiss the case against David Bonds, the accused murderer of brass-band musician Dinerral Shavers, is disappointing to those of us who've followed this story. But to anyone familiar with issues of crime, law enforcement and judicial process in New Orleans, it should come as no surprise.
The wave of homicides that swept through New Orleans in late December and early January claimed among its victims Shavers, the 25-year-old snare drummer of the Hot 8 Brass Band and a teacher who had established Rabouin High School's first-ever marching band. Shavers was the sort of fine and gifted young man that made others proud to dance behind him in a second-line, that made mothers happy to send their children to his school, that inspired his very young son, who now often plays at Hot 8 performances, to pick up drumsticks and follow his daddy's example.
Here's a brief section from my piece in next week's Village Voice, with glimpses of two June (NY) jazz-fest highlights:
Both the JVC and Vision Fests were studded by that tried-and-true lure -- the supergroup. During a four-part Ron Carter show at Carnegie Hall last Wednesday night, intermission gave way to what first appeared like a dream (with Miles Davis as subtext): bassist Carter alongside pianist Herbie Hancock, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and drummer Billy Cobham. Carter's mere suggestion of familiar grooves to "So What" and "All Blues" worked like tickles into the crowd. Shorter's subtly inventive playing on "Seven Steps to Heaven" brought on knowing smiles. And jaws dropped during Hancock's solo on "Stella By Starlight." It was all over in some 25 minutes (no encore) and, glorious though it sounded, one had to wonder why, after assembling such a quartet, you'd pull the plug so soon.
The Vision Festival's final night ended with a very different dream-team: Billed as "Louis Moholo and Friends," this quartet featured Moholo, a South African drummer rarely heard in New York, the ubiquitous Parker on bass, Dave Burrell, a pianist of sublime and versatile gifts, and Kidd Jordan, a legendary educator in his hometown, New Orleans, and an ever-questing, singular-sounding tenor saxophonist. Parker started things with some multiphonic bowing, but soon settled into powerful, hard-plucked grooves. Jordan poked at shards of melody here and there, then bent deep in the knee, reached up into the highest register of his horn, and issued overtones that floated above the growing din, somehow seeming to direct it all. At first, Burrell offered logical chord progressions (he could have been a Gershwin tune); before long, he too was chasing something larger and more obtuse. And Moholo kept this sonic juggernaut moving surely with little of no bombast. His brief snare rolls and carefully placed cymbal crashes served like road signs, his sure bass-drum kicks kept the fuel coming.
After an hour or so, the music ceased. Patricia Parker took to the stage. She signaled with thumb and forefinger as if to say, "a little more." Parker smiled, wiped sweat from his brow, shook his head. "Enough is enough," he meant to say. And it was.
I was stunned to see this photo of President Bush with his arm on the shoulder of a smiling Kermit Ruffins, after the trumpeter performed at a Congressional picnic on the South Lawn of the White House.
You need to read the transcript of Bush's remarks through the stranger-than-fiction, funnier (or sadder)-than-parody penultimate line. Apparently, the White House staff was proud enough of itself and our Dear Leader to post same on its site.
Along with longer days, sunnier skies and warmer weather -- it's outdoor basketball season, at last -- June brings a wealth of great musicians to this already jazz-rich city. I'll fill you on singer Cassandra Wilson's brilliant Central Park concert to open the annual Summerstage series later. And saxophonist Sonny Fortune's harmonically advanced blasts were some the best sounds I've heard in a decade of attending the annual Gracie Mansion backyard picnic to kick off the JVC Jazz Festival.
Now, if I miss being in New Orleans -- and I do --
Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins -- one of the last remaining links to bebop's heyday, and among the greatest living improvisers playing in any musical tradition -- is bringing back his memorable series of "special guest" concerts while revisiting an ever deeper memory (his Carnegie Hall debut 50 years ago). Rollins's invitationals, held annually from 1970 to 1995 (sometimes at Carnegie, other years at the Beacon Theater or Town Hall), featured his collaborations with longtime colleagues (Charles Mingus, among them) and younger musicians; regarding the latter, there was always an element of tension -- how would Branford Marsalis fare next to Sonny? and so on...
On September 18th, Rollins will perform at Carnegie in a trio alongside bassist Christian McBride and drummer Roy Haynes, playing the same tunes he did on that stage 50 years ago.
This New York morning was unseasonably chilly, which made me miss New Orleans all the more. Yet I'm still basking in the warm glow of John Boutté's triumphant performance at Joe's Pub in Manhattan last night: He channeled so much of the city I've come to revere and adore and spilled it forth with characteristic grace and personal style, that, well, I'm good--for now.
Joe's was packed, the audience quickly hushed into a silence broken only by the handclaps Boutté encouraged here and there, and the applause that punctuated the performance and grew more emphatic as the evening progressed.
Not even the subway's rumble beneath the club, which has bothered more than one performer, could unnerve Boutté: He just extended an arm and invited it into his sound. Rumbling beneath it all more consistently was the odd mixture of pain and frustration, pride and purpose that underscores post-Katrina life for all New Orleans residents.