Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Jazz Festival Continues

Something about jazz organ almost always makes me feel like I'm in a hockey rink: is this a uniquely Canadian perceptual distortion? John Medeski is about the only organist I've encountered who somehow gets me past this. Even Dr. Lonnie Smith, whose performance, opening for Mavis Staples at the Centre for the Performing Arts tonight, I greatly enjoyed, had that hockey feel; the echoey acoustics of the upstairs of the Centre probably added to that, such that he could have trilled "doodle-a-doo-da-DOO" (in the manner of the hockey charge) and it would have fit perfectly. Still: I was surprised how much I liked what he did. There are very few players associated with the Jazz Cellar whose music interests me; since generally I like stuff to be new, fresh, cutting edge, the whole MO of the place (to celebrate/regurgitate the jazz of about 50 years ago) just doesn't really appeal to me, and while I've seen players I like there -- Mike Allen and Bernie Arai come to mind -- I generally just don't go. I might be tempted to see Crash sometime, tho', based on Dr. Lonnie Smith tonight; there was something very no-bullshit about what he did -- his love of the music he was playing was evident, and he had a subdued, quietly intense, amusing sense of showmanship that quite appealed. I even enjoyed sideman Corey Weeds playing (tho' I enjoyed more musing at how his suit, pink shirt, and tie made him look kinda like Eminem).

I wish I could say I enjoyed Mavis Staples. Not knowing her music at all, I went hoping for Mahalia Jackson, but what I got was something far closer to Aretha Franklin; and while Mavis does have a powerful, throaty voice that I quite liked, there was a Vegas-y PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER VANCOUVER aspect to the routine that just sort of left me sitting there, as she told anecdotes about the Staples Singers which might have meant something to the converted but didn't really matter much to me at all. I liked the bass and guitar solos, during an extended version of "Respect Yourself" (but not enough to bother looking up the names of the bassist and guitarist) and I kind of enjoyed her gospel-ized take on the Band's "The Weight," but mostly I sat and waited for an opportune moment to leave. She was calling on Colin James, apparently in the audience, as I snuck out the door before the first encore -- perhaps he jammed with her. No disrespect intended to anyone involved, I just don't need that kind of action in my life (particularly when it came to the religious songs... I could almost imagine her performing them on TV)...

I didn't get as much of a charge out of Bik Bent Braam last night at the Culch as I'd hoped, either, despite the presence of Eric Boeren (I finally was able to score a copy of his deliciously Ornette-y Soft Nose recording from the merch table! I've been looking for that disc since I saw Boeren here two years ago). Part of it may have been that I'd expected to take a friend, who cancelled. Since Liz and Blake are out of town, this means that I'm doing a year of jazz shows entirely alone. Aww.

At least I'll have company for the Subhumans gig on Friday...

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