Esperanza Spalding @ Gesu – Centre de Creativite, Montreal 7/2/09

Posted: July 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Day 3 of my jazz week, and I get a second chance at seeing Esperanza Spalding here in Montreal, at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

This time, without a thunderstorm overhead, I am able to fully engage and immerse myself in the music and experience that is, Esperanza.

Esperanza played a balanced mix of songs from her previous two albums and many new songs we can expect will likely show up on her upcoming album (which is supposed to be a hommage to Nina Simone). I had a smile on my face the entire performance. I couldn’t wipe it off even if I tried. I was head-boppin’, foot-stompin’ all the way through.

A few thought-provoking ideas went through my head as I was enjoying the concert:

1) You’re only as good as the musicans you play with:
Esperanza played with a stellar, yet young group including Otis Brown (bass), Ricardo Roach (guitar), Geonese (?) (piano). Keep an eye out for any and all of these musicians, as I am very sure they will all lead very successful and distinguished careers as the leaders of their own jazz groups. With the type of music that Esperanza and many of the younger groups are playing, they require each musician in the group to be fully adaptable and possess many different musical specialties.

2) A glimpse into the New Contemp Jazz direction:
Esperanza is not the only artist playing multiple styles fusion. But different from the type of fusion Miles Davis pioneered (Fusion with instrument, sounds and a heavy influence from the then fresh avant garde/free jazz movement) The new fusion is about fusing different styles of popular music genres into Jazz: Rock-Jazz, Soul-Jazz, Trip hop-Jazz, R&B-Jazz, Hip Hop-Jazz. The contemporary jazz musician like Esperanza (an like Christian Scott or The Bad Plus) are arranging each song as it should be arranged, whether it is a Jazz rhythm line supporting a pop song, or a jazz song in a the context of rock.

2a) Successful players must be masters at a multiple number of different genres:
What this means for all contemporary musicians and those up & coming, is that if these advancing artists are constructing this paradigm, all subsequent jazz musicians will need to master not only jazz, but a number of other genres as well. We will see not only specialists in one instrument or style in Jazz, we will see more musicians who will be specialists in multiple genres to master New Jazz Fusion.

2b) Each song is a different kind of fusion:
No longer will a full album be made to reinforce one jazz genre. As we saw in Esperanza’s second album which had three distinct types of fusion equally represented throughout the album, we’re going to see more musicians have consecutive songs distinctly different from one another. It may alienate some listeners, especially those that only like one kind of style/genre/fusion.
But this type of each-song-stands-on-its-own album fits into the iTunes-style of music selling: Now that music listeners & buyers are purchasing each song at a time, and less and less purchasing whole albums, it allows a listener to choose the type of fusions that are most appealing to them from that one particular artist.

Esperanza’s first album set a foundation that established her firmly as a young-rising talented artist in the jazz arena. Album two threw together a few different styles Esperanza could do to show her verasity. It also helped the record label learn more about which styles are most commercially viable. Now with sneak peeks at some new songs, we have an idea where her next album is going: further into fusion: soul, rock, world-music into jazz.

Esperanza’s show illicited continuous standing ovations from the audience, resulting in two encores.

In the subsequent days after Esperanza’s performance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, I saw and read a number of very strong and positive reviews from her performance. But I think the clearest indicator of how successful her performance at the jazz fest was the fact that all of her cds were sold out in every single music store I could find (and I went to all of the stores, my friend wanted to buy the album but we couldn’t find it anywhere).

Bravo to Esperanza Spalding! The highlight of my few days at this year’s Montreal International Jazz Fest.

Kev’s Music Review: The Bad Plus ‘Prog’

Posted: February 8th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

The Bad Plus ‘Prog’ Album Cover
There are few other jazz groups I am as excited about as The Bad Plus. What can I say about them? I am oftentimes left speechless. Perhaps the most creative band out there, they are redefining lyrical and melodic expression and cohesiveness while throwing you in a merry-go-round of tempo and rhythmic exercises.

The Bad Plus is most definitely the tightest band out there. I have never ever seen a group as syncopated and in-tune with each other as these three. If you don’t believe me, have a listen to my favourite song of their’s, ‘Physical Cities’.

This group is a composer’s dream. The trio, made up of Reid Anderson on bass, Ethan Iverson on piano and David King on drums are all well established and highly individualized composers, each contributing their own works to the large body of work that is The Bad Plus. Each song is uniquely different, painting completely different landscapes, or exploring distinctly different worlds of contemporary jazz.

The Bad Plus built their name and reputation by taking pop standards from rock, funk and other genres and reinterpreting them in the Bad Plus language. I find this strategy is a great introduction for newbies into the contemporary jazz scene, and TBP does it very well.

‘Prog’ has a good sampling of pop standards, but you’ll hear a larger component of the group’s original works. I find it a really good balance of education and exploration. Educating new listeners what is the Bad Plus sound through pop-standard extrapolation, and exploring their own creative prowess with their original compositions.

The balance between the piano, bass and drummer are brilliantly matched. There is not one track on this album where any one player is forced to be subdued. They each bring their unique flavour, but the combination of the three personas is what makes The Bad Plus so memorable.

Billboard magazine had this to say about ‘Prog’: “A gourmet 10-course meal of the sublime (a gorgeous take on Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”), the rowdy (a raucous ride through the original “Physical Cities”) and the eclectic (Iverson’s “Mint,” Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”). Easily the most likable and listenable jazz album of 2007.”

I first saw The Bad Plus live in concert in 04 or 05, when they opened for Joshua Redman at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Back then I was struck mostly by the obtuseness of their effort. It was nothing like I’d ever heard before. Especially David King on the drums, who, during that performance used the skeleton of an umbrella, coat hangers, and other found objects to augment his drum kit. It was the most bizarre spectacle, but they managed to get a foothold in my memory. And that is something to be said, since they opened for Josh Redman during his Momentum album tour; arguably the best concert I’ve ever seen.

I next saw The Bad Plus live in May of 07, when they opened for Roy Hargrove in Toronto during his ‘Nothing Serious’ tour. The Bad Plus stole the show. For me they were stratas above Roy Hargrove that night. What impressed me most again was their tightness, their precision, their decisiveness. I was absolutely awe-struck witnessing ‘Physical Cities’ live.

I may have gone long with this review, but hopefully it will convey to you how extremely impressed I am with The Bad Plus. Check out their website here and hopefully you’ll get hooked on their music as I have. Given, they are not exactly new to the scene; they’ve been around since 2001, but they have a long and bright road ahead of them.

I for one will be with them every step of the way, anxiously expectant of the wondrous twists and turns that await.

Keeping an ear to the ground,