Two Musical Weekends

Whew. Finally, things have slowed down long enough for me to write this.

The past two weeks since I had gotten back from the cruise have been nothing short of madcap. I got off the plane to a sinus bug, which graduated to a throat bug, but none of this had stopped me from treating myself to my favorite duo in jazz fusion: Jeff Lorber and Eric Marienthal. Not exactly a duo, but whenever Jeff Lorber takes the stage, his saxman of choice is definitely subject to scrutiny. Not everyone can mesh with the old-school fusion gone modern and make it sound stellar quite like Eric M, though many may try. This time, though, Jeff had showcased music from his upcoming release, Galaxy.. I had the pleasure of procuring that CD, and hope to do a formal review of it over Thanksgiving. Where people have turkey, I have jazz served straight up.

And wouldn’t you know that Dave Koz had stopped in to watch the show as well. That was a surprise, to say the least, but that’s the Iridium for ya. Right in the heart of Times Square, tucked away from the touristy attraction, and speaking right to the soul.

Later that week, Steve Cole’s solo debut at the Houndstooth series.

Now, this was interesting. I’ve first seen Cole in live show nearly three years ago. Back then, I thought he was off his game a bit. This time…well, let’s just put it this way: if I ever thought those words, I had to eat them that night. He brought the Chicago soul onstage in NYC and let it rip. From his hits such as Just a Natural Thang to my personal favorite Got It Goin’ On, he had the over-filled Houndstooth crowd eating out of his hand in minutes. And, of course, he brought the Turrentine, and a deeply underrated track off Spin.

Honestly, when I think of Steve Cole’s records, I have no idea why Spin gets a bum rap. It’s more, for the lack of better words, happy than Cole’s usual city-grit, and has just enough of his usual almost lazy funkiness that colors his sound to mark that album as unmistakably his. It’s more personable, and I enjoy hearing those tracks live most of all.

And then there was Acoustic Alchemy.

Ironically, I saw A.A. the first time under the same circs as Steve Cole: All Star Cruise 2009. And while I will never be able to tell you whether or not I have heard their music prior to that cruise, I will always tell you this: I don’t know how it is that I have gone without that sound in my life. Something about Aart particularly is utterly entrancing, and that is only one of the many albums with that flavor. Acoustic Alchemy had been around for a long, long time, and Greg Carmichael, then together with the late Nick Webb, has created something outstanding.

So when they came back to Daniel Street, after what happened last year (for those who do not recall, their gear was stolen), I had to come. Who cares if it’s less than 24 hours after Steve Cole’s gig? Sleep? Who gives a damn?

Yeah, I know, I know.

I took the camera with me as well, and test-drove it in the Daniel Street lighting. But, after Overnight Sleeper, I put the camera away. Why? The guys were playing off Roseland, and much like on that night on the Celebrity Century cruise ship, I just stopped everything, put everything down, and fully immersed myself in what my ears were hearing.

You know the A.A. sound. It’s a guitar-centerpiece sound with a strong keyboard as delivered by Fred White, and a subtle, even rhythm section. It’s a sound that had stayed strong through decades and still maintains a stronghold over audiences every day. It’s the sound that whisks a person into it and doesn’t let go once you hear it. Age isn’t relevant; if there is a music lover in the audience seeing this band for the first time, they will come back, time and again. The sound is nothing short of pure, undiluted, auditory magic. And Roseland is more of the same captivating string-bending wizardry that you know and love, taken into new melodies and new vibes. The title track has the true A.A. effect: it pulls you in, sweeps you along, wraps around your ears, and before you know it, you’re reaching for the replay button to immerse yourself in it all over again.

And for the record, I didn’t get the record that long ago, so a more in-depth look into it is pending. But it is, like a lot of other A.A. tracks, a staple in my shuffle playlist.

Finally, there was Bob Baldwin and the (slightly early) birthday party. And I have to hand it to Bob on his collaboration; he knows how to build an all-star assembly on stage. Ragan Whiteside on flute, a two-point all-star percussion team of Chembo Corniel and Cafe Da Silva, with Ron Jenkins and Thierry Arpino backing on the rhythm, there was no shortage of talent on that stage. A showcase of Brazil-style countered with the releases from the Re-Vibe album, presented in the easygoing atmosphere of Trumpets of NJ, made for a perfect way to round out the music-chasing of November.

And, as an aside, this was actually the first few times that I have photographed at a show. I still have a ways to go and need to learn the hell out of the camera, but so far, my photos have been steadily improving. Still looking at another couple of lenses and working out the kinks of how to custom-set the modes so I get the minimal amount of interference, but it’s coming along. The best part is – stock images. I have my own stock, and will be able to shoot more now.

Onwards we go…