Last night was the absolute ear candy for all Smooth Jazz lovers. In the house: Saxophonists Walter Beasley and Gerald Albright; Guitarists Norman Brown and Peter White; Keyboardist Brian Simpson and Vocalist Extraordinaire Maysa.
[commercial break] Tonight I am viewing from backstage, and first let me say this: EVERYONE that I have met, and interact with; Cliffie, Willard Jenkins, Dr. Simpson, Trissa Chaney, Lt. Wynn, and every artist and representative this night was absolutely incredible! Very warm and friendly. I was a wall lizard [out of the way taking pics and listening], and sometimes that is the best vantage point. You get to see REAL. And they all were very pleasant and engaging to each other, and the blogger! Special shout out to James Simpson, who has the serious responsibility of handling the artists transportation and has been volunteering with the Jazzfest for 26 years. An honor to meet you sir. More on him later…
…we now return to our regularly scheduled blog…
I love to see concerts like this. I remember the soul concerts many years back, when a concert ticket would yield you 3, 4, 5 artists in one night. Now, that is not to say that an evening with one artist is not a good concert. Some have ramped up their stage with visuals that make it an true experience. But I do love the variety of having more than one artist. These artist came together beautifully. It was not staged with each artist coming out and doing a set. Instead, they performed in what the poetry community calls “Round Robin”. Each person came out, did a number or 2, and then the next. Backed by an amazing band, the audience was treated to hit after hit.
If I comment on every single artist, and every single work, this blog would definitely need a publisher for a book series..lol. Whenever you bring great talent together like this, you are going to be left with an experience that is one to talk about. SO.. what I have done with this one is chosen the crowd, and my own, personal favorites of the night’s performances. I met some really great Cleveland Jazzians pre and post concert, and they gave kudos to all, with a few highlights:
Opening the night was Gerald Albright, a crowd favorite. Needless to say the man is always phenomenal, but his version of “Georgia On My Mind” transported us back to summer porches, sweet tea, crickets, lightning bugs, sweet potato pie, and the smell of pecan trees [can you tell I am a Georgian? lol]
If you are familiar with Incognito, then you are familiar with Maysa. She is the voice behind one of their runaway hits “Deep Waters” which she performed last night and in the middle of it, flipped the song to “I Will Always Love You”, a rendition that would have made Whitney proud and definitely Dolly Parton beam with pride. To top it off, Maysa showed off her vocalise and power by stepping away from the microphone in a 3,000+ seat arena and singing to the crowd from both sides of the stage. And you could hear hear clearly! wow.. Dynamic voice and a super sweet lady!
Walter Beasley is a class act, on and off the stage. He is very animated, so you will not only enjoy his musicianship, but his persona. With him, we listened, we laughed, and we heard the sincerity in his music that came from a real love for what he does as with all of them; but in a brief encounter offstage he was one that you felt you could sit and talk and play cards with, and then have your ears blown off by his incredible gifting. He was absolutely hilarious as he played and talked about his riches in soul as opposed to money like John Q. Artist [nope.. not tellin.. you HAD to be there lol]
Brian Simpson is a beast on the black and whites. Period. There really is no other way to put it. His interactions with everyone on the stage were critical because Yes, he is the jazz keyboardist. But the highlight that most spoke about, was his version of “I Go To The Rock”. You could tell there was a hardwood floored, fan waving, deacon board Baptist church somewhere in the root of that rendition.
Norman Brown was really great. And really fast. The problem, however, is that he was so fast and energetic that every picture was a blur! lol… so, no pic of Mr. Brown, but trust me, he was “outta sight” lol [I crack myself up]
Overall, even though everyone was fantastic, the highlight performance was Guitarist Peter White. And Englishman, he is at once engaging with his accent, and totally hilarious in his approach. When he broke a solo from a jazz number to perform “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, It brought the crowd to their feet. Later he donned a pair of shades and went in to the theme from the classic James Bond movies. His passion for what he does, interspersed with the humor, was the hit of the night.
Tonight was exceptional, and thanks to Tri-C, Jazz lovers were given an amazing night of instrumentation, comedy, and vocals.
Tri-C has worked tirelessly to provide this event for the past 33 years. I had the opportunity to talk with James Johnson, who has been a volunteer here for 26 years [driver for the artists]. It was incredible listening to him go back over the lineage of artists that they have brought in. Mel Torme, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and tomorrow night, The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
Don’t miss out on this treat folks. Go to http://www.tricpresents.com and purchase a ticket to one of the events, as well as look at the free shows. I promise you, YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!
In Rhythm and Blue
2012 Tri-C Jazzfest