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With Special Guest TERENCE BLANCHARD
SWING JAZZ SERIES: The John Brown Band with Special Guest Terence Blanchard
Jazz Arts Initiative, McGlohon Theatre (October 13, 2012)
by Ann Marie Oliva (Arts a la Mode.com)
Last night was the first of four shows in the new Swing Jazz Series at the McGlohon Theatre. An agreeable crowd, excellent acoustics, and the amazing musicality on stage made for a memorable evening, leaving the listeners wanting more. It was as much about educating the audience as entertaining them since influential musicians who love jazz are trying to keep the recent jazz resurgence alive and well.
If affable band leader John Brown has anything to say about it that will happen with good-natured joy. He indicated that the band's type of swing jazz music may not be strictly the classic type, but isn't that the kind of freedom jazz is all about, and why its adherents love it so much? That's not to say that there is no hard work or discipline because it is obvious the musicians in this band know their stuff.
They opened the set with "Easy Money", which warmed the crowd for what was to come. Mr. Brown, or should it be said Professor Brown, since he teaches at Duke University, introduced each song with a short summary and some occasional good humor. Next up was the band's interpretation of Nat Adderley's "Work Song", and the night was still young. The band followed with a homage to jazz great Dr. Frank Foster and his arrangement of Dizzie Gillespie and Chano Pozo's Afro-Cuban rhythms in "Tin Tin Deo".
The audience warmed further still, tapping their toes and bobbing their heads as special guest Terence Blanchard was introduced and made his presence known during the band's rendition of Gillespie's "Groovin' High", another Frank Foster arrangement. Mr. Blanchard came on stage showing his sense of humor by glancing at his cell phone as if summoned by a text from the piano player. He modestly waited to one side as the band "grooved" on with several musicians taking solos, and then he strode to his center stage microphone and proceeded to show the crowd what they came for. Next on tap was a rousing "Tall and Lanky" that really cooked in the groove. The first set wound up with "Lulu's Back in Town" that featured a call and response between Mr. Blanchard and trombonist Dr. Mitch Butler.
After a brief intermission, the audience returned to find only a handful of the band on stage as they started playing the standard "The Saints", however, to the audience's surprise and amusement, the sound of the horn section suddenly rose up from the rear of the house as the rest of the band played as they marched up to the stage to take their seats. With the full band in place, they launched into "Voyage" followed by a funky Horace Silver composition. Then the mood went soft with "I’ll Never Smile Again" where Mr. Blanchard took us all to another place. A short and funny introduction preceded "Little Farley". The set concluded with another Frank Foster arrangement of "Easin It" before an encore that put a fitting bow on the evening.
Special guest and five-time Grammy winner Terence Blanchard just blew the audience away with his virtuoso trumpet playing. He is well known for many for his film scores, most recently in Red Tails, but to hear him play live is something totally outrageous.
As you might expect, every single member of the band is multo-proficient, but several stand out, such as Mr. Brown himself on bass, drummer Adonis Rose, pianist Ryan Hanseler, trombonist Mitch Butler, and saxophonist Brian Miller who also did a call and response with Mr. Blanchard. Another sweet surprise was Joshua Beerel in his inaugural band performance. He is excellent, and by the way, he’s sixteen! Jazz is not dead and musicians like young Mr. Beerel prove it.
What strikes you watching as well as listening to the band is the sheer joy of playing music, the delight in each other's expertise, and generosity of the musicians toward each other. We are fortunate to have this jazz series come to Charlotte because there is nothing like being in those moments listening to live music. I hope even more people come out for the next show in the series with Nnenna Freelon. I know I wouldn’t miss it.