Monday, September 17, 2018

39th DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL 2018 words by Calvin Neal, photos by Calvin Neal & Greg Lewis


Terri Lyne Carrington/Esperanza Spalding; Tribute To Geri Allen, “Open On All Sides” (creative music side of Geri)

Esperanza Spalding – bass
Terri Lyne Carrington - drums
Kris Davis – piano
Ravi Coltrane – saxophones
David McMurray – flute

Carrington, Spalding and pianist Kris Davis began the set with some fiery trio play in a set wholly comprised of Geri Allen compositions.  Then, the trio was joined by saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and David McMurray on flute plus tap artist Maurice Chestnut (performed in Europe with Geri Allen as tap soloist) Spalding was bouncy, energetic and absolutely fierce during the tribute. With sunglasses keeping the glare of the evening sun out of her eyes, Carrington was the epitome me of cool. And boy did she jam! Pianist Davis was a revelation and more than did justice to the Allen compositions. McMurray played beautiful in and out flute and Coltrane, who is a dead ringer for his father, (and also much underrated) shone very bright. A marvelous way to kickoff DJF 2018.

David McMurray, Esperanza Spalding, Ravi Coltrane

David McMurray

David McMurray, Esperanza Spalding, Ravi Coltrane, Terri Lyne Carrington

 A brief interlude from Mack Avenue Records artists the Julian Lage Trio
Julian Lage Trio

 lead to a rousing session from this year’s Artist-In-Residence, Chick Corea Along with DJF mainstay bassist John Patitucci and longtime Corea collaborator, drummer Dave Weckl, the performed as The Akoustic Band. At 77, Corea looked youthful and healthy and as nimble fingered as ever. Patitucci may be the best jazz bassist in the business right now (in my humble estimation) and on this night he did not disappoint. His solos were strong and definitive. And he is also a wizard with the bow. The propulsive Weckl sounded as if he could have played all night. Through an array of Akoustic Band music , old and new, Chick and friends sounded as fresh as the did on the 1989 album named for the band.

Chick Corea


Straight Ahead – Carhartt Amphitheatre
Regina Carter – violin
Alina Moor – piano
Marion Hayden – bass
Gayelynn McKinney – drums
Kymberli Wright – vocals
Yancyy – saxophone

                The 25th reunion of Straight Ahead was all we expected and more. The core of Straight Ahead, violinist Regina Carter, pianist Alina Moor, bassist Marion Hayden and Gayelynn McKinney on drums were in rare form. Their 50-minute set was a treasure trove of the groups long list of compositions. Joined for one tune by Detroiters, vocalist Kymberli Wright and saxophonist Yancyy, with amazing scat vocalese from Ms. Wright. Carter displayed her world class skills and rocked the house. Moor, with her inside/outside playing, added to the weekend of outstanding pianists (see Kris Davis in Opening Night article), while Hayden and McKinney, as always, keeping the groove.

Alina Moor

Marion Hayden

Regina Carter, Gayelynn McKinney

Regina Carter, Marion Hayden, Kymberli Wright

Louis Hayes Quintet – Carhartt Amphitheatre
Louis Hayes – drums
Abraham Burton – tenor sax
Steve Nelson – vibes
David Bryant – piano
Dezron Douglas – bass

                Though Dr. Lonnie Smith and his trio were scheduled for the time slot, Louis Hayes and his quintet were more than worthy alternates. Hayes at 81, is still one of the hardest driving drummers around. Accompanied by Abraham Burton on tenor sax, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, David Bryant on piano and on bass, Dezron Douglas. The set was entitled “Serenade for Horace”, Hayes’ tribute to his mentor and former bandleader the legendary Horace Silver. Throughout the 50-minute set, Hayes and company helped me believe that my beloved hard bop is not dead. Veteran vibist and educator Nelson, longtime member bassist Dave Holland’s groups, was fiery and original. Abraham Burton was a welcome voice with his own hard bop voice. The boyish looking Bryant was just another of the magnificent pianists heard during this festival. Douglas, on up-tempo and slower, held it down with his thumping bassline. Expecting Dr. Lonnie Smith and instead seeing Louis Hayes was like wanting a Play Station and getting an Xbox, fantastic either way.

Louis Hayes Quintet

Abraham Burton

Louis Hayes

Steve Nelson

David Bryant

Dezron Douglas


 Hubtones: Freddie Hubbard 80th Birthday Celebration – JP Morgan Chase Main Stage
Randy Brecker – trumpet
Nicolas Payton – trumpet
David Weiss – trumpet
Jeremy Pelt – trumpet

                The 80th birthday celebration for the late, great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard entitled Hubtones, was absolutely amazing. Four of the top trumpeters in jazz, the highly decorated Nicholas Payton, Randy Brecker, who during his illustrious career has been a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears and both the Horace Silver Quintet and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, the young firebrand Jeremy Pelt and David Weiss, who recorded with Hubbard on his final session.

Nicholas Payton

Randy Brecker

Jeremy Pelt

Jeremy Pelt, Randy Brecker, Nicholas Payton

David Weiss

Roy McCurdy

Asaba Trio – Absopure Waterfront Stage
Hirofumi Asaba – guitar
Yuhei Honkawa – bass
Toshihiro Fujita – drums

                This year’s representative of the Yokohama Jazz Promenade was the winner of its Grand Prix competition, The Asaba Trio. Lead by guitarist Hirofumi Asaba, the trio, bassist Yuhei Honkawa and drummer Toshihiro Fujita were, as previous Yokohama winners, tremendous. Asaba, who’s style pays tribute to Barney Kessel, was a nimble finger magician. “Sweet and Lovely, “In Your Own Special Way” and “Asaba Blues” were standouts. Honkawa reminded of the bassists of legend like Oscar Pettiford, as he mouthed every thump of his bass, it was great! And drummer was a cool, unassuming dynamo. 

Asaba Trio

Hirofumi Asaba

Toshihiro Fujita

Yuhei Tonkawa

#DetroitJazzFestiva! #Jazz #DJF2018

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Mark Wade nominated top acoustic bassist in annual Downbeat poll

Mark Wade

My good friend Mark Wade has been nominated again this year in the 2017 Downbeat Reader's Poll, Acoustic Bass Category. I am including a link so that everyone can vote and support Mark. You can vote for Mark on page 9 of the poll. Thanks everyone and good luck Mark.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Calvin H. Neal, Jr.
July 9, 2017

            Sunday June 25, 1961 will always hold a special place in my heart. That summer day, when I was only four years old, was the afternoon that pianist Bill Evans and his trio of Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums, recorded what some believe to be the most incredible live session of piano trio jazz ever. The two albums that originally came from this performance at New York’s famed Village Vanguard, Sunday At The Village Vanguard and Waltz For Debby, (with the title track named for his niece, which is perhaps Evans’ most endearing and enduring composition) are without question the epitome of its genre. Evans’ handling of the repertoire was tender, eloquent, lyrical and still full of fire. LaFaro, whose unfortunate death only a few weeks following the performance, on July 6, at the age of only 25, in an automobile accident, showed that the bass could do more than walk or just offer support. LaFaro’s playing that June afternoon was a revelation. As for Paul Motian, his sensitive stick and brushwork are absolutely masterful.
            Now, nearly 40 years after his death, Bill Evans has been the most influential jazz pianist of the past two generations. From Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett to Brad Mehldau the influence of Bill Evans’ elegantly beautiful, lyrical style can still be heard today. 

            William John Evans was born on August 16, 1929 in Plainfield New Jersey, to a father of Welsh origin and a mother, whose family was Russian.  Evans, on a flute scholarship, followed his brother Harry to Southeastern Louisiana University. While at the Hammond, Louisiana campus, Bill displayed his athletic prowess by quarterbacking his intramural mural football team to the school’s championship.     After graduating college in 1950, Evans did a stint in the Army, before attending Mannes College of Music in the mid 1950’s. Evans played with the bands of Jerry Wald, Lucy Reed, Tony Scott and George Russell before his legendary union with Miles Davis.
            “It may have been that Miles [Davis] found a sympathetic ally in me for something that was lying latent in himself, too. And with my presence there as a pianist, which directed a sort of a flavor of what's happening, he knew that we would be able to create this thing.
 - Bill Evans (Schenker, 2008)
            Davis’ group then featured John Coltrane, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Paul Chamber and Jimmy Cobb. Evans was integral in the making of what is arguably the greatest jazz album…ever, Kind Of Blue. Evans’ importance is detailed by Bruce Spiegel, producer of the documentary, Bill Evans: Time Remembered,
            ..his contribution (to Kind Of Blue) was big, a lot bigger than people realize. If you look at two of the tracks on the album, “Flamenco Sketches and “Blue In Green” was a song that was attributed to Miles Davis that was actually written by Bill Evans, ok? The other composition was “Flamenco Sketches”, which was basically based on Bill’s song “Peace Piece” from “Everybody Digs Bill Evans.” (Simon, 2017)

            But Bill Evans is also known for creating the blueprint for what a piano/bass/drums jazz trio should be. With bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, Evans delivered some of the most beautiful must starting in the hard bop era until Evans’ death in 1980. Definitively described by All’s Richard S. Ginnell as, “three way telepathic trialogues”, the interplay and simpatico that Evans, LaFaro and Motian achieved has to this day remained unmatched. From the trio’s initial release, Portrait In Jazz, in 1959 to 1961’s Explorations the growth and melding of the minds of this groundbreaking trio was obvious. 

And the June 25, 1961 sessions at The Village Vanguard, remain THE sessions of piano trio and one of the definitive sessions of the hard bop era. When LaFaro was killed in a single car crash in July 1961, Evans was totally crushed and considered never playing again. “I didn’t realize how it affected me right away”, Evans said. “Musically everything seemed to stop. I didn’t even play at home.” (Pettinger, 1998)

            But he regrouped and in May and June of 1962, he and drummer Motian went into the studio with bassist Chuck Israels and recorded two albums worth of music, “Moonbeams”, which was Evans first all ballad l.p., and the lively “How My Heart Sings”. These sessions, recorded May 17, 29 & June 2 & 5, 1962 at Sound Masters studios in New York City, showed that Evans was indeed back with a very viable trio. Israels showed LaFaro the ultimate respect by not attempting to imitate him, but proved to be quite a force himself. 

Other bassists who worked with Evans’ trio include Eddie Gomez, who was with Evans for 11 years, Monty Budwig, a short stay from Gary Peacock and Marc Johnson. Evans also recorded with legendary musicians bassist Ron Carter, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, alto sax man Lee Konitz, drummer Philly Joe Jones, singer Tony Bennett and had monumental success in a duo with guitar giant Jim Hall.

            Pianist Peter Pettinger penned a brilliant biography of Evasns, 1998’s Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings, Yale University Press. Pettinger’s book is a must for not only fans of Evans, but all jazz fans. Tormented by heroin and later cocaine addiction for most of his career, Evans died September 15, 1980 in New York City of bronchial pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer.