Sunday, November 8, 2009

Jazz and Tropicália

Spent the weekend in San Francisco to attend three San Francisco Jazz festival concerts and otherwise enjoy the city. The three concerts were all over the place, in a very good way. Friday night we heard the Portuguese/Cabo Verde singer/songwriter Sara Tavares with a strong quartet from Cabo Verde and Portugal. She was suffering from a respiratory ailment (she said flu but I have difficulty in believing that she would have been able to perform at all with the flu) and the first few songs lacked energy somewhat. She got stronger through the set, however. She did a great Balancé, one of her best-known songs, and she generally showed a stylistic freedom and disregard for the bonds of Portuguese song convention that were very refreshing. Not a perfect performance, besides her illness they had equipment glitches, but lots there to like and a great rapport between Sara and her band.

On Saturday we saw Savion Glover and his outstanding band. Wow. Edge of the seat work, like with Gonzalo Rubalcaba the other day. Except that one can get a whiff of Rubalcaba on recordings, while Glover has to be seen. Glover's dialog and debate with his band members (all amazing, but Tommy James on piano and Patience Higgins on saxophones had especially rich interactions with Glover), the depth of rhythmic variation around Coltrane and blues themes, were breathtaking, so intense and surprising that one truly forgot to inhale, with not a second of slack.

Today, we heard John Arbercrombie with Mark Feldman (violin), Drew Gress (bass) and Anthony Pinciotti (drums). Abercrombie and Feldman are the core of several of my favorite recordings of the last several years: Open Land, Can 'n' Mouse, Class Trip, and The Third Quartet. Today's set was mostly compositions from Wait Till You See Her, a new record I didn't know. I had heard Abercrombie live only once before, with Larry Coryell and Badi Assad on the live tour of Tree Guitars. In today's set he and his partners, especially Feldman, did what we really hope for in live jazz, going outside the tighter confines of a studio recording to wander, explore, tease and draw the audience.

In between, we enjoyed a beautiful cool fall weekend walking around San Francisco, and a delightfully varied exhibition of modern Brazilian art at the Yerba Buena Arts Center.

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