Jazz Fest 2016, Day 3: Frank reviews John Abercrombie, The Majestics, Madeleine McQueen, and Charles Ruggiero


Okay, so I'm paraphrasing here, but my "what for," "why is," and "when by" of jazz was serendipitously solved by guitarist John Abercrombie. During his 10 p.m. slot to a packed and lively crowd at the Montage Music Hall, he said, "I don't like to know where I'm going. That's why I play jazz."

But clearly Abercrombie, his organist, and his drummer knew exactly where they were going even when they opted to send the soundman to get some music from their dressing room after their first Irving Berlin number. Abercrombie's playing was big and sweet with its notes not so much fat as they were chubby and slick. But honestly, it was overshadowed by the organ in spots. 'Twas pure and beautiful all at the same.

As I proclaimed in the hallowed pages of City last week: The Majestics are back, Jack. The band celebrated its history with a bouncy set of serious reggae in a packed Little Theatre. It was hard to get up and dance when the size of the place served up the sardine treatment. Consequently it was a laid back, chill affair. Just when you thought the set couldn't possibly get any better, The Majestics invited up a few Prime Time horns for some seasoned and salacious sass and brass. What a solid show; I can't wait to see them again.

After the Majestics and right before Abercrombie's gracious set, I set foot in the Fusion Tent to catch Madeleine McQueen and the Breeze. I remembered liking her CD and her voice in particular: it's bright and sweet and reminiscent of Mikaela Davis. The problem was her guitar player, or more specifically, how he was mixed. It was big and shrill like a dentist drill as it overshadowed McQueen. I liked what he was playing, just not its molar-cracking treble and volume.

And all the way back at the beginning, I started the evening at Max for drummer Charles Ruggiero's 6:15 p.m. set. He described the jazz approach of taking a brief, succinct, and recognizable melody as fodder for improve once it's been identified like, say, the theme to "Law and Order." It was a homecoming of sorts for the brash beater who gave the people what they knew before taking it out of bounds.

But the true inspiration that prompted me to write this review backwards was from Abercrombie's reason for jazz. I truly didn't know where I was going with this until I sat down to bang it out. And you know what? I still don't know.

Check back Tuesday morning to hear what I thought about the Monday sets with Gwyneth Herbert (at Christ Church) and Judith Hill (at Anthology).