New Orleans is the undisputed birthplace for Jazz. And Second Line Jazz is the brass infused style that is more widely known for funeral processions [follow me here]. How befitting that Tri-C Jazzfest would officially kick off with a parade in downtown Cleveland with a processional that included a second line jazz ensemble, signaling the ‘death’ of polluted airwaves, only to later resuscitate it with the fresh wind of Esperanza Spalding.
In full regale with beads, hats and merriment, The Shaw High School band led off, Pied Pipering a stream of jazz enthusiasts to Pura Vida where the Second Line Salty Dog Brass Band performed as guests dined on authentic Creole cuisine. Cleveland was in a Jazz takeover! The party moved from Pura Vida to the courtyard where Salty Dog continued to play as a preliminary to the main event concert with Esperanza Spalding. Their music did not stop there, however, for when the lights dimmed, the halls were filled with sound as they played from the entrance of the building into the main auditorium front and center.
Upon their leaving, the focus was set stage right, at this massive Boom Box styled radio portion of it’s design as the lights dimmed and we were reminded of my exact statement. The absence of Real Music. It was quite nostalgic to hear the dialing of a radio station: static in between each frequency as we used to scan up and down searching for that feel good minutely interspersed between talk shows, religious broadcasts, commercials, and political rhetoric.
I sat, along with a woman and her daughter who drove up super early from Columbus, OH in the front row as Esperanza and her incredible line up of musicians took us on a journey about Love and Music.
RADIO MUSIC SOCIETY TOURING ENSEMBLE:
LEO GENOVESE – Piano, Rhodes, and Keyboards [offstage left]; JEF LEE JOHNSON – Electric Guitar and Backing Vocals; LYNDON ROCHELLE – Drums and Backing Vocals; CHRIS TURNER – Backing Vocal; TIA FULLER – Musical Director and Alto Saxophone; DANIEL BLAKE – Tenor and Soprano Saxophone; AARON BURNETT – Tenor Saxophone; JEFF GALINDO – Trombone; COREY KING – Trombone; IGMAR THOMAS – Trumpet, and LEALA CYR – Trumpet and Backing Vocal
If you have in your possession her latest offering “Radio Music Society”, you are experiencing a level of music quality that is a standard in Jazz yet, has been sorely missing from mainstream radio. The compositions are lively, haunting, seductive – all executed by some of the most gifted musicians in the recording arena today. Her live ensemble was flawless in it’s execution of the Radio Music Society catalog, each exceptional in their own lane that took us on a journey of Love, Laughter, and Music. Esperanza herself is engaging. It is always refreshing to have an artist on the stage who is comfortable in their element enough to interact with the audience and she kept us laughing in between songs as she told a story about unrequieted love found in the most peculiar of ways, and the growth that ensued as a result of it.
Most know I am not a fan of cover songs unless they have been elevated to another level. To me, that is paying true homage to the composer in showing that you see the vision, and want to raise it a little higher for every one else to see. This was defined to the last decrescendo in Esperanza’s version of “I Can’t Help It” by The King of Pop, Michael Jackson [and you KNOW I’m a hard core fan..lol]. the exchange between Lady Spalding on the Electric Bass and Musical Director, Tia Fuller [Tia Fuller Quartet, Beyonce’] was a dramatic entrance to a smooth jazz rendition filled with nuances that now makes it a signature song for her as well.
Not all fun and games, Esperanza is a part of the “Free The Slaves” organization, to which all proceeds from her merch while on tour go to help the cause. I purchased “Radio Music Society” upon it’s release to review for my magazine, however I had to purchase again to support such a worthy cause. Be sure to contribute to the furthering of her humanitarian efforts by purchasing T-shirts, posters, and CD’s at the concert. During this segment of the show, we were treated to the pure beauty of her voice as she told the tale of a man that had been “bound for 11,000 days in the land of the free”. Her culmination was an encore presentation with just the lady, and her double bass.
One of the best parts of my job in the media is that I get to take a close look at behind the scenes. Far too many times in the industry you hear of inbred fighting, snobby attitudes, and disrespect for the musicians on the road with the main artist. Such was not the case with this night. From the security guards’ take on her professionalism [“she was tight on top of the band, hearing little things I would have never heard and working with them”] to one of her road associates Dave as we waited outside of her dressing room – he for her to get ready to depart and myself to get the only photo opp of the night – everyone spoke very highly of her, and there was a genuine comraderie between all members of the tour. In my magazine, Purifying The Mic/Blueprint of Soul Music [www.purifyingthemic.com], the Founder and Editor-in-Chief just spoke about artists, and their handlers and the attitudes and arrogance you can come across. Everyone I encountered, from her Manager to the Personal Assistant, to the Roadie with the wires strapped around his shoulder was pleasant, chatty, and very polite, all thanking us for having them here and allowing them to share with us.
The wait for these an artist opp [photo/autograph] can be long and tiring if you are not patient, or unpleasant if the entourage is tired, crabby, etc. We all laughed and talked, waiting while she conversed with her manager. He came out, thanked us, and as we waited for her to come out we heard the sound of whistling. Bright happy notes as she prepared her belongings. Then, in a rare moment I am sure [since fans do not gather backstage for this], we all fell silent as she picked up her double bass and began to practice, complete with metronome and bow. “She practices all the time”, Dave explained. “Which is why she is so good at what she does”. I could not agree more. Her performance was technically on point. But more than that, just as you could her in her whistling while she worked packing, Esperanza Spalding is in love with the sound of music and that love and care is radiated from the stage in every note played. If you have heard her, you cannot help but appreciate her. And if you have seen her, you cannot help but love her.
Tri-C is in it’s 33rd year of providing us with one of the biggest and best Jazz Festivals in the country.
For more information please visit http://www.tricpresents.com and be sure to attend one of the remaining nights of music and entertainment. You will NOT be disappointed.
In Rhythm and Blue
Tri-C Jazzfest 2012