I've often wondered if Diana Krall was as cool as she comes off, or just bored. I'm here to say she's cool, daddy-o. As Krall strolled out of the backstage darkness at Kodak Hall and over to the piano on Friday night, every Raymond Chandler description of a woman poured out of me like sweat. Not only is Krall breathtakingly beautiful, but that voice — it's pure seduction and invitation. Krall tackled songs by artists like Nat "King" Cole and Tom Waits. Her band laid a capable shag beneath her and she returned the favor with frequent forays that featured each. I was told that the show was sold out, but there was nobody there except for Krall and myself as she sang and completely unglued me front and center. I bounded out of there in love like Pepe le Pew. Le sigh!
Esperanza Spalding was both enchantingly focused and filled with child-like wonder as she fronted an excellent 11-piece band at Kodak Hall on Saturday. The whole set was musically varied, including swipes at swing, flights of funk, and dives into dissonance with a constant narrative about love's ambiguity running throughout. It was positively brilliant as the band followed the uber-afro'd Spalding's flexible scat, going so far as to mimic and harmonize. (FD)
Earlier Saturday evening I caught Tom Harrell's Debussy & Ravel Project at Kilbourn Hall. Both Impressionist composers are favorites among jazz musicians due to their experimentation with unconventional harmonies, melodies, rhythms, and voicings. So when Harrell and his superb band played an hour and 20 minute set of (and in the spirit of) the composers' music, it just seemed like cerebral jazz.
Harrell, who suffers from schizophrenia, never made eye contact with the audience. He walked slowly with his head down, every movement deliberate. But when he picked up his trumpet or flugelhorn he came to life. And he got better as the set progressed, with the last three tunes (two of them by Harrell, one by Ravel) the best. His ensemble, enhanced by violin and cello, boasted some top players. Especially strong on solos were Wayne Escoffery on tenor sax and Charles Pillow on various woodwinds. (RN)
Things got hot hot hot with Monophonics under the Big Tent Sunday night. The group blends psychedelic rock with funky, funky funk, and just enough soul to keep things hopping. The group was loud — very loud — but that was the way the musicians wanted it: the trumpet and saxophone player kept telling the sound guy to bring the instruments up.
With soaring psych-inspired electric guitar solos, a tight horn section, and that lovely spin of the organ, Monophonics had the crowd up and dancing in no time. I can't remember the last time I saw a dance pit at a Jazz Fest show, but Monophonics lit fire under people's seats. (WC)