From time to time, John Birchard of the Voice of America news staff shares with Rifftides his impressions of musical events in the District of Columbia and environs.
Can a ghost band make art? For example, does one consider a Glenn Miller Orchestra led by Sam Donahue capable of creating music that stands the test of time? How about the group led by Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter that featured Wallace Roney in the role of Miles Davis? Is their collaboration to be considered on the same plane as the Miles Davis Quintet? If not, why not?
The crowd that gathered for the second set by Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band Featuring Jeremy Pelt (try fitting THAT on the marquee) at the KC Jazz Club at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (one long name deserves another) in Washington, DC last night didn’t seem to be mulling over such questions.
Whether they washed up on a wave of nostalgia–a number of gray heads in the audience could have been around back in the day for the Adderleys’ own group–or were there out of curiosity, they were treated to an hour and a half of tunes associated with Julian and Nat, served hot and tasty.
The set started with the Quincy Jones composition “Jessica’s Day”. The ensemble was tight and snappy, the solos bore promise of a good night. Though forty years have passed since Louis Hayes was a young up-and-comer, he still can drive a band, no matter the tempo. Next on the menu was “Lisa” by the late Victor Feldman. Hayes gives Pelt considerable solo space and the trumpeter uses it well. He reminds me of Freddie Hubbard in his attack and the confidence he exudes. Pelt was featured again, this time in a Harmon mute, on “Naturally” (spelling?). The rhythm section stayed with a feeling of 2/4 throughout, Hayes on brushes.
Julius Tolentino is a suitable stand-in for Cannonball. I had not heard the altoist before and on his feature “Bohemia After Dark”, he called up images of the Far East and snake charmers. Nicely done. Apparently, Tolentino is new to the band. When Hayes introduced him to the audience, he called him “Julian Tarantino”, which caused the rest of band to burst into laughter. Seems it’s happened before.
The set continued with Bobby Timmons’ “Dat Dere”, a showcase for bassist Gerald Cannon, whose funky walking solo brought yells from the audience, and for pianist Rick Germanson, whose offering was appropriately soulful. Nat Adderley’s “Work Song” closed the evening with Tolentino evoking Julian’s spirit And, again, Jeremy Pelt showed why he’s a star on the rise, with a swaggering, blues-inflected solo.
Does Louis Hayes front this band because he loves the music and wants to share it, or is it because he recognizes that he can earn a living from being the only surviving alumnus of a famous jazz group? Maybe it’s both. The fact is this is a very good band, playing strong material well. If last night’s audience is any indication, the public approves.
Having raised the question whether this is art or commerce, my vote is for commerce–but it surely is enjoyable commerce.
Your Washington correspondent,
For a Rifftides review of a CD by Hayes and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band, click here.
Don Frese says
Can a ghost band make art? A good question from your reader.
I guess it can be if the musicians bring a new slant or if they play the material with commitment and verve, instead of just going through the motions.
I thought Dameronia was a terrific band, one that I am grateful to have caught live twice–once at a defunct Village club called Lush Life, and once at a Dameron tribute at Lincoln Center. I think the Mingus Big
Band had done a very fine job of keeping Mingus’s music alive–they play it with fire and bring something new to it, I think, in a way that the various Mingus Dynasty bands didn’t. I think Bill Holman’s rethinking of Thelonious Monk was a most successful project.