Rock/pop Clubs by Night
Rock/Pop Club Directory
Rock/Pop Bands in Town
Jazz Clubs by Night
Jazz Club Directory
Jazz Bands in Town
The mainstream lives! And Blanchard — through years of touring and writing — plays mainstream jazz in very high style. Now 41, he’s aided here by an aggressive, sensitive band. Pianist Aaron Parks’s "On the Verge" is typical, unfolding through one distinct episode after another as it moves from one soloist to the next, beginning with its vaguely Latin vamp, a left-hand piano ostinato joined by the tricky right-hand counter-rhythms, then piano and guitar stating the melody in unison as that vamp keeps chugging along, then tenor joining for a secondary theme, then trumpet. Parks’s solo immediately embarks on tonal wandering and is itself a marvel of variety — abstract single-note lines, smooth upward runs, syncopated Latin chording. Brice Winston’s tenor is muscular and just as varied. Then a short lyric aside from Benin guitarist Lionel Loueke before Blanchard’s trumpet solo comes in — nearly six minutes into the tune. He doesn’t disappoint, all rich tones, dramatic held high notes, driving repeated figures.
There’s nothing so simple or gratifying as a pop hook, and the ballads lack mystery. But the tunes are templates for the band to take off on. Drummer Eric Harland’s "Transform" plays with suspended chords that keep everybody in the air, always just about to step into a resolution but never arriving. And Blanchard’s "Fred Brown" is tough and angular, paced with stop-times for Harland’s explosions. The discreet use of Fender Rhodes electric piano here and on Wayne Shorter’s "Footprints" is just another example of how Blanchard can tell you what you know and still surprise you.
BY JON GARELICK
Issue Date: August 15 - August 21, 2003
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