I figure I'll use this blog to keep track of concerts I see, and who knows what else.
January 22, 2012: Wynton Marsalis. Duc des Lombards, Paris. (Pure coincidence that my blog starts with Wynton. I'm neither a cheerleader nor a knee-jerk basher.)
Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Hervé Sellin, piano; Bruno Rousselet, bass; Jeff Boudreaux, drums.
I took advantage of a hastily announced visit by Wynton M. to the tiny Duc des Lombards club in Paris last night. It's been a long while since I've bought any of Wynton's CDs, but this sounded like the right context to see him in: up close and personal in a small club, accompanied by a local trio.
And sure enough, it was thoroughly enjoyable. Hervé Sellin is a fine mainstream pianist and he and Wynton apparently know each other well and have done this before. They were having fun with each other. Bruno Rousselet was solid. Jeff Boudreaux, a Louisiana native now based in France, sounded like a Dixieland/swing drummer given his relatively uncomplicated and rudimentary playing. No flash, but he was swinging, if in an old-fashioned kind of way.
The material was unsurprising: nice standards ("What is This Thing Called Love," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "All of Me," "Lady Be Good" as the encore), Wynton's party piece "Cherokee," plus "Saint James Infirmary" featuring Wynton's vocal chorus, and "Saint Louis Blues."
Nor was Wynton's playing surprising: he's a consummate showman and used his large bag of tricks on the trumpet to entertain the ears in a warm and relaxed, living-room-like atmosphere. It was easy to forget about the jazz wars and just enjoy an engaged, swinging set with its fair share of trumpet acrobatics.
February 2, 2012: Mark Murphy. New Morning, Paris
Mark Murphy, vocals; George Mesterhazy, piano; Andy Hamill, bass; Mark Fletcher, drums
This was my first time seeing Mark Murphy. I had never really heard what was so great about him, based on admittedly not much listening. So I decided to check him out live, and it turned out to be a great idea. Murphy is around 80 and age has of course taken its toll on his instrument, but he makes up for it with crazy imagination, his swing, his musicality, and his sheer joy in performance. He was just up there having a ball. The trio with him was perfect for him. One thing about the top jazz singers is that they always have a strong, improvising drummer. Mark Fletcher was in that role; no idea who he is, but he was doing it. Excellent jazz.
And somebody was filming it! Witness: My Foolish Heart.
February 6, 2012: Mark Turner Quartet. Duc des Lombards, Paris
Mark Turner, tenor sax; Avishai Cohen, trumpet; Joe Martin, bass; Marcus Gilmore, drums at the Duc des Lombards, Paris
Superb concert. Turner's lines are very cerebral, in my view; that is, he doesn't use many traditional jazz devices based on blues and swing. But he's intensely lyrical nonetheless and has a magnificent tone, clean and pure but very warm and strong. There was great alchemy with the still undersung trumpeter Avishai Cohen, one of my favorites of the current crop. Joe Martin is a stalwart of many New York bands, with good reason. Marcus Gilmore is ridiculously gifted as a drummer. This quartet is a regular thing but Turner apparently has no recording contract at present, so it risks going undocumented. Boo!
February 24, 2012: The Cookers. New Morning, Paris
Billy Harper, tenor sax; Craig Handy, alto sax & flute; David Weiss, trumpet; Eddie Henderson, trumpet; George Cables, piano; Cecil McBee, bass; Billy Hart, drums
No false claims in the group title, they cooked. There was one problem that marred the concert somewhat, which was that it was uncomfortably loud. There were probably about 150 people in a club that seats 300 when it's jam-packed to the rafters, and given their energy, if they had played completely unamplified one would have heard the music perfectly clearly. Instead the blaring amplification made it hard to hear the organic unity of the rhythm section. This is not the first time this has happened to me at the New Morning. In addition, one could see from the musicians' gestures to the soundboard that their onstage monitors were not high enough.
But the music itself was great. Solid and satisfying four-horn arrangements of original tunes, particularly by Harper, McBee and Cables, committed and energetic solos by all. Henderson in particular stood out for me for his imaginative soloing, and the others were no slouches. David Weiss, who served as the MC, had some fierce and crackling choruses. But I'm above all delighted to have caught the rhythm section of Cables, McBee, and Hart. They were flying. Monsters, all of them. A great night.
March 3, 2012: Laurent de Wilde/Laurent Coq. Auditorium de la Cité de la Musique, Paris.
Laurent de Wilde, piano; Laurent Coq, piano.
This hour-long concert was at the end of a two-hour colloquium where the two pianists and some journalists and musicologists talked about Thelonious Monk's music. Then the pianists played Monk tunes, first de Wilde, then one piece with the two of them together (on two pianos), then Coq. Both are excellent musicians, but my preference went to Laurent Coq, who seemed more individual and inventive.
March 5, 2012: Chris Potter Quartet. New Morning, Paris.
Chris Potter, tenor sax, soprano sax; David Virelles, piano; Joe Martin, bass; Gerald Cleaver, drums
The New Morning was packed with young musicians who had come out to be wowed by Potter and co. Potter is a serious virtuoso and promptly wowed the house. Complex music played with deep virtuosity by all. Highly satisfying.