Enjoy Jazz Festival: Heidelberg / Mannheim / Ludwigshafen, Germany, October 19-November 10, 2012
This show, featuring music from drummer Billy Hart's recent All Our Reasons (ECM, 2012), was an absolute festival highlight. Conceived as a developing narrative with subtly tensioned sequels, the evening started with an eruption of bubbling energy, the red thread of swing leading all the way to the exact point of fusion between instrumental mastery and musical synergy. Hart's tremendous presence contributed a virtuoso act of stunning complexity, perfectly integrated in the foamy performance. Hart's dynamic accord with bassist Ben Street's nuanced modulations completed the rhythmical scheme of counterpoints and mixed measures. Saxophonist Mark Turner's sovereign alternation of moods found its counterpart in pianist Ethan Iverson's firm grip. In perfect communion and synchronicity, the musicians brought a show reminiscent of a high-powered engine, a drive on the edge of a precipice, a stormy wind upon a ripe cornfield, or a river carrying along the changes of time.
Archie Shepp, Yusef Lateef, Reggie Workman, Hamid Drake, Mulgrew Miller
It took festival director, Rainer Kern six month of logistical coordination to bring together these five high-ranking musicians for this historic festival closer. When the musicians stepped onstage and sat at their instruments, and the audience overcame the emotion, there was a moment of silencea moment of concentration that quietly anticipated a rare event where, in the end, musicians and audience were rendered as members of a big family. The performance was marked throughout by a powerful emotional flow, which actually enhanced the music's concept and harmonic completeness. The calm, almost hieratic balance was elegantly transported by the serene, undemonstrative manner of interpretation.
In saxophonist Archie Shepp's "Major 3rds and Minor 2nds," the instruments' solitary tones gradually took over Yusef Lateef's flute line to further gel into a melodic thread. The strong rhythmical binder was provided by bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Hamid Drake. While its theme glided from one instrument to the other in "Une petite surprise pour Mam'zelle," the swing provided a sonic environment fueled incessantly by its inner drive, transforming the performance into a transporting experience.
Lateef's finesse and stylistic elegance was graciously paired with Shepp's tender tones. "Listen with the Heart" started with ethereal flute tones mingling with soft wailing and cries of dying birdsa composite of sound best contextualized by the bass intervals, out of which Shepp emerged, retrieving melodious signals interrupted by wild calls. Sung by Lateef with a youthful, ethereal voice, "Brother Hold Your Line" best revealed the spirituality of his musical being. Just as in his instrumental performance, time seemed to have rounded the edges, giving his music a heightened quality. The show closed with a blues, a fair pairing of forces at work, and a superb twining of voices best sustained by the fluid perfection of pianist Mulgrew Miller's descending phrases. The groove emerging in an organic crescendo, culminating in a serene dance of the titans.