Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Best Jazz Show in a Year

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I caught Misters Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, and Paul Motian at the Village Vanguard last Tuesday night. Here I'm posting the "review" I wrote of the event for the Law School newspaper. But don't worry, Fans of Briggie dot Blogspot, you aren't just getting my Commentator leftovers, I'm providing you with special behind the scenes info to get this thing started:

You wouldn't know it from the article, but this is the second time I've seen Joe, Bill, and Paul. I first saw them exactly a year ago (naturally) all by myself on the recommendation of Andrew. What I remember most about seeing them the first time is: I had never been over to 7th Avenue before and just wasn't sure what sort of a neighborhood it was or if I should have been looking over my shoulder or whatever. When I saw my first pair of elderly men walk by holding hands, I knew I was probably safe. Also, I had a really awful seat in the club, and the trio began with Monk's "Mysterioso" and played "Our Love Is Here To Stay", but I remember it being a much more sedate version then what I got this year. Also, I remember looking at the rest of the crowd and how many people were making the "Man, this is good jazz!" face. This year, I think I made the "Man, this is good jazz!" face myself a few times. I'm not as dumb about jazz as my article would let on, but I have absolutely no grasp of the terms that one would use in writing a proper jazz review. My "Breathless" analogy that I start my article off with crossed my mind during the show--if I knew where my notes were, I'd show you . . . also, if I knew where my notes were I could give you my "set list" for the event (you see, I gave each song a name like "I am a Gentle Jazz Lullaby" or "Wake Up! I am an Angry Jazz Song!"

Okay, that's enough. Here's what was printed in the paper:

My Jazz Review by Brigham Barnes

The first time I watched Jean-Luc Goddard’s New Wave masterpiece “Breathless” it was because I was sick of being told that it was a New Wave masterpiece and wanted to see what it was all about for myself. At first the movie struck me as, above all things, unremarkable and fairly uneventful (even though it starts with a car robbery and a murder). But by the time our heroes Michel and Patricia are chatting in her apartment, I discovered that at some point along the way the movie had completely captivated me and I didn’t want the movie to end.

When I went to see Paul Motian, Joe Lovano, and Bill Frisell late last Tuesday at the Village Vanguard (during their annual two-week residence), I had the same slow-immersion in greatness sort of experience. Jazz, for me, is something I’ll always appreciate but just never be properly on top of, I’ll always rely on the recommendations of the better-informed on what to go to—and, when my better-informed friends tell me to go to the Vanguard to catch “geniuses” and “living legends”, I go.

As the evening began, the music struck me as good, but not spectacular—standard high-quality jazz, nothing flashy—“unremarkable and fairly uneventful”. But by the trio’s third number of the night, (the Gershwin standard “Our Love is Here to Stay”) I noticed that, at some point along the way, these musicians had completely captivated me and I didn’t want the set to end.

Now, as I am, to say the least, unititiated in the ways of proper jazz criticism, I can only describe what was great about the show in the simplest of terms—and that’s that the show just won me over. The trio (Lovano on tenor sax, Frisell on guitar, and Motian on drums) played off of each other’s talents and improvisations with the skill of, well, skilled jazz men and the songs ranged from gentle lullabies that nearly put me to sleep (in the best way possible) to howling modern screechers that were, to say the least, thrilling. As the set was devoid of any onstage banter, I can’t tell you the names of any the songs that were played except for “Our Love is Here to Stay”, which was the one melody I could recognize. I suppose my own complete lack of a sophisticated knowledge of jazz serves to prove the point about how fine Lovano, Frisell, and Motian’s performance was: while sophisticated and complex to earn these men the praise of the snobbiest of Jazz fans, their work is so approachably excellent that someone as uneducated in the art as myself can’t mistake if for anything but greatness.

Addendum: Oh yeah, I went to the show with Karisa. I should've mentioned that, right? Maybe not to NYU, but to you, at least.

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