[JPL] Top 10 Bay area jazz concerts
drjazz at drjazz.com
Wed Dec 19 23:19:07 EST 2007
Here's to the top jazz concerts of 2007
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 12/16/2007 03:01:28 AM PST
IT WAS a monumental year for jazz by the Bay.
Notably, we celebrated milestone anniversaries for both the Monterey
(50) and San Francisco (25) jazz festivals. We also marked the opening
of the new Yoshi's in San Francisco, which fills a major gap in that
city's arts scene.
I was fortunate to attend many of this year's biggest jazz events, as
well as some of the smaller, though equally enjoyable, concerts. The
following is a look back at the year in live jazz in the Bay Area.
1. Ornette Coleman, Oct. 28, Masonic Auditorium, S.F.: The saxophone
hero could have begun resting on his laurels about 1959, the year his
groundbreaking "The Shape of Jazz to Come" was released. Instead, he
went the other way and fashioned a lengthy and lasting legacy that is
simply beyond compare. This Masonic show, as exciting a night of jazz as
I've experienced in years, showed that Coleman isn't finished writing
his own legend. We're clearly in the midst of a prime era for this
gifted musician, who won both a lifetime achievement Grammy and a
Pulitzer Prize in 2007.
2. Monterey Jazz Festival, Sept. 21-23: The 50th anniversary of the
world's most prestigious jazz festival proved to be everything a fan
could've hoped. We saw great sets by the East Bay's own Dave Brubeck,
Sonny Rollins and -- yes, him again -- Ornette Coleman. With due respect
to Oscar Peterson and a handful of others, one could make a very
convincing case that Brubeck, Rollins and especially Coleman are the
three greatest living jazz artists. Throw in my gal Diana Krall and
you've got an anniversary occasion to remember for the next 50 years.
3. The Christian McBride Situation, July 27, Yoshi's: At the start of
the show, the bass wizard instructed fans to "strap up, we will reach
our cruising altitude of infinity shortly." His combo, featuring East
Bay saxophonist Dave Ellis, DJ Jahi Sundance and keyboardist Patrice
Rushen, proceeded to perform one of the most impressive evenings of
wholly improvised music that I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
That, dear friends, was jazz.
4. Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, Brian Blade, May 4,
Herbst Theatre, S.F. -- For this SFJAZZ concert, saxophonist Redman,
pianist Mehldau, bassist McBride and drummer Blade, a quartet that
worked together for two years in the '90s, reunited to honor the great
Thelonious Monk. The band used the opportunity to perform sensational
covers/reinterpretations of songs found on the acclaimed "Thelonious
Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall" record.
5. Esbjorn Svensson Trio, May 22, Yoshi's -- The Esbjorn Svensson Trio
(E.S.T.) is a Swedish outfit that plays "America's music" better than
just about anyone. That's the good news. The better news is that the
band -- pianist Svensson, bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus Ostrom
-- accomplishes that feat in startlingly new and refreshing ways. Plus,
it's equally good on record and in concert.
6. Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood, Sept. 20, Montalvo Arts Center,
Saratoga: MMW -- keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin and
bassist Chris Wood -- is already so great in concert that the thought of
adding champion guitarist John Scofield to the mix seems totally unfair
to all the other working jazz combos. Thankfully, life isn't always
fair, and the fans at Montalvo received a glutton's share of jazz riches
on this evening.
7. Ravi Coltrane, July 25, Yoshi's: I've been lucky to catch John C's
son on numerous occasions -- including in performance with his mother,
Alice Coltrane, at the Masonic Center in 2006 and as part of an all-star
band at the grand opening of Yoshi's S.F. last month. That Masonic gig
was a magical evening, one that ranked as my pick for best jazz concert
of 2006, but the finest saxophone work that I've heard Ravi deliver came
at this Yoshi's show.
8. Chick Corea and Gary Burton, Feb. 17, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley:
Pianist Corea and vibraphonist Burton share a undeniable musical bond,
one that manifested to the greatest extent on 1972's masterful "Crystal
Silence." On this evening, the pair celebrated the 35th anniversary of
that landmark album with an evening of duets that made one wonder: Why
on earth do these two players ever perform separately?
9. Branford Marsalis, Feb. 12, Yoshi's: Wynton's sax-blowing brother was
in exceptionally fine form on this night, which featured a mix of
original tunes composed by Branford and his bandmates (drummer Jeff
"Tain" Watts, bassist Eric Revis and pianist Joey Calderazzo). The best
of the lot was Marsalis' own "Sir Roderick, the Aloof," which included a
spiraling soprano sax solo that sent shivers down fans' spines.
10. Chris Botti, Feb. 16, Paramount Theatre, Oakland: I won't make the
jazz police happy by including Botti on this list. The self-appointed
guardians of "real jazz" don't like this trumpeter because he has the
nerve to sell large numbers of records. Their reasoning goes something
like this: If the general public likes it, then it can't be worthwhile
jazz. If, however, you'd rather enjoy an evening of beautifully
performed instrumental ballads than stay at home and worry about your
"cool" credentials, I highly recommend catching Botti in concert.
Reach Jim Harrington at jharrington at bayareanewsgroup.com
<mailto:jharrington at bayareanewsgroup.com>.
Dr. Jazz Operations
Oak Park, MI 48237
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