Neolicious Review – Unplugged: Cleveland Jazz Orchestra

MOCA, or the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art is within itself something to blog about.  The art that is displayed there is always fresh, and innovative.  A different approach to a standard staple.

Perfect atmosphere for the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra: Unplugged.

Under the direction of world renowned Trumpeter and Artistic Director Sean Jones, this brilliant quintet [Sean Jones, Trumpet, Musical Director; Clifford Barnes, Keys; Tony Watson Jr., Saxophone; Joey Green, Bass, Robert “Hubb” Hubbard, Drums] took us thru 2 beautifully executed sets of music.

Starting with “Maputo” by David Sanborn [who will be here for the 2012 Tri-C Jazzfest!], the CJO set the tone for what Jazz is best known for; Unconventional Discipline.  Jazz is a peculiar bird, one which if not appreciated for it’s passion can be misunderstood or brushed off as merely “instrumental music”. But a Skilled musician can invite  you into their heart and soul where the seat of the music is born from, and you experience all of the passions, highs, and lows with each measure. There is a discipline to it, as Jazz challenges the musician and the listener with absurd time signatures, chord progressions, and tempo changes – at times all of those components in one offering.  It sounds free, crazy, uninhibited, kaleidoscopic, and breathtakingly beautiful all at the same time. It was so good that I called my producer friend in California and put him on speakerphone so that he could be blown away as well as they performed “Mo Better Blues” by Branford Marsalis.

We were extra especially treated to some original offerings.  “Chillin at da Grille” by Sean Jones, and “77 South” by Robert “Hubb” Hubbard.  Both of these men have proven to be not just accomplished musicians in the Jazz genre, but also gifted composers of  lasting music.  “Chillin…”, as Sean explained, was a result of a request from 2 patrons at a performance he was at; an older gentleman requesting a standard, and a younger man requesting D’Angelo.  Sean’s offering seamlessly crosses the lines of Traditional Jazz and Neo-Soul by blending the best of both worlds: the disciplines of Straightahead and the off- chorded structures of the Neo Soul. Not an easy feat since Neo Soul is the hybrid of Jazz and R&B and can easily overpower it’s predecessor.  It was received with a thunderous standing ovation.  “77 South” was amazing.  I would love to have it in the car booming while riding down that freeway.  The composition was focused, and mindlessly free hearted, the exact way we are when we are driving long distances – which is the motivating force behind it as he explained having to travel that highway often to see his wife.

There were so many high points! Each musician is skilled in their arena.  Everyone of them.  Robert “Hubb” Hubbard is already known in the community for his group “Hubbs Groove”, usually sitting in the seat of Musical Director as well.  It was great to hear him shed at the drums. At one point, bassist Joey Green sounded like a band of bassists, and Clifford Barnes played such an amazing solo on the keys that we could not contain it anymore and began yelling and cheering.  Tony Watson did an incredible interpretation of  ”Cherish The Day” by Sade, and was regarded as one of the better saxophonists Sean has come to play with. Culminating the evening was a bright, lively version of  “The Chicken” by Jaco Pastorius  that brought us to our feet dancing, then at the end clapping and cheering as they left the stage until they returned for an encore…and we were treated to a decadent musical indulgence – “Tutu” by Miles Davis.  It was perfectly clear why Sean Jones was the front horn man in the tribute to Miles Davis on the tour with Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller.  It was everything it was meant to be.  Haunting. Reflective. Beautiful.

For me, this was the perfect introduction into the 2012 Jazz Season.  I encourage you earnestly to find your way to a Cleveland Jazz Orchestra concert THIS YEAR.  Do not hesitate!  I first heard them when they did the tribute to Afro Cuban Moods last year.  We have INCREDIBLE musicians here in Ohio.  Let’s come out not just to support – but to experience a lost art in the mainstream of music.

Real, Pure, Live Musicianship.

Til then!


Categories: Jazz, Music, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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