The Alfredo Rodriguez Trio started off well enough at Kilbourn Hall Monday night. During the group’s first tune the dynamics were off the charts. Rodriguez, his bassist, and drummer never fell into a standard pattern. The piece rose and fell like Rodriguez’s hands springing off the keyboard. The sound was impressionistic, with flurries of notes and surprising turns in the melody.
The second composition began nicely with hand percussion and a simple repeated phrase that gradually grew more complex. But halfway through the piece, Rodriguez opened a laptop computer and moved a microphone to his mouth. He then proceeded to add gimmicky vocal effects to the mix. I thought we were a couple of days away from Peter Frampton.
I headed over to catch Geoffrey Keezer at Hatch Hall where, thankfully, there were no mics or laptops in sight. If you imagine a great jazz pianist like Keezer spending years in a garret listening to nothing by Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, and Duke Ellington, consider the first three compositions on his set list: a Stevie Wonder tune, a Peter Gabriel tune, and a Rush tune. But, I must admit, they were played in manner more like Monk, Powell, and Ellington.
Keezer was wonderfully engaging, telling stories between each tune. He can seemingly convert any pop song into compelling jazz. But my favorite of his selections was “My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose,” based on a poem by Robert Burns, which was probably a hit in 1794 when it was written.
The most arresting music of the night for me was provided by the Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet at Xerox Auditorium. The band not only had Rosenwinkel, one of the most distinctive guitarists in jazz, but also boasted Aaron Parks, one of the genre’s finest young pianists. These two were supported by the superb rhythm section of Eric Revis on bass and Justin Faulkner on drums, two musicians who where so in sync, they played as one.
Every one of Rosenwinkel and Parks’ solos was an adventurous flight but, I must say, they saved the best for last. The second-to-last tune was a gorgeous ballad on which Rosenwinkel would play fairly exotic chords and then play runs over them while they resonated. His tone was perfectly clear, his lines beautifully articulated.
On the last tune, “Star of Jupiter,” Park played his finest solo of the night. And Faulkner, who, in retrospect, had been holding back for most of the night, unleashed a solo as masterful as it was powerful.
I ended the night with Eric Alexander and Harold Mabern at the Montage. Because I was late, I was stuck in the bar portion where they don’t seem to know there’s a jazz festival going on. Maybe, with the variety of venues, bar ambiance (read noisy people) is what they’re going for at Montage, but it’s kind of annoying to hear really loud people even when I’m inside the music area.
Still, Alexander proved to be his usual muscular tenor-sax-playing self (he’s one of the best). And it was good to hear Mabern, one of the last of the greatest generation of jazz players. This guy played with Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Wes Montgomery -- the list goes on and on. On a ballad at Montage he played one of the most beautifully constructed and melodic solos I’ve ever heard.
Tuesday night I’ll be checking out the John Patitucci Trio at Kilbourn Hall, saxophonist Julian Arguelles at Christ Church, and Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen at Xerox Auditorium.