Underplaying to the Max

"A Celebration of Jazz & Joyce," Symphony Hall, September 28, 2007
By JON GARELICK  |  October 2, 2007

Lizz Wright and Regina Carter

Slideshow: A Celebration of Jazz & Joyce at Symphony Hall, September 28, 2007
All-star blowouts at Symphony Hall are fraught with risk. The hall is unfriendly to amplified music, and what happens if one of the all-star jams goes off the rails into some 27-chorus solo on “Flyin’ Home”? But “A Celebration of Jazz & Joyce,” produced by George Wein and his former top capo, Dan Melnick, was a tightly run affair. A fundraiser for a Berklee scholarship created in memory of George’s wife, Joyce Alexander Wein, the sold-out show came in at a cool three hours. Only George’s extended — and touching — thank yous after the final note was played pushed the event well into overtime.

Better yet, the 18 musicians — arranged in different groupings — played full-out without overindulging. Tenor sax didn’t fare well — Lew Tabackin and Joe Lovano exerted themselves mightily to little effect amid drums, bass, and Symphony Hall reverb. Tabackin did far better alone with his flute — unamplified — on Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages.” Branford Marsalis sliced through the air on soprano in a duet with Joey Calderazzo on the pianist’s “Breeze Dance.” Then he showed Lovano how to deal on “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” taking the tempo way down so his big rounded tenor notes carried. Lizz Wright, a powerhouse singer, was smart enough not to push her voice — accompanied by pianist Geri Allen, she just opened her mouth let the music pour out, conversationally, on “Here’s to Life” and “Reaching for the Moon.” Violinist Regina Carter brought her solo on Luiz Bonfá’s “Manhã de Carnaval” (from Orfeu negro|Black Orpheus) down to a whisper. Pianist Michel Camilo played unaccompanied, one song, his “Caribe,” which he said Joyce always requested. With his beautiful touch, command of harmony, and rooted Latin dance rhythms, he drew a direct line from Chopin to Jelly Roll Morton. He brought the house down. When Herbie Hancock later emerged, he had no choice but to underplay Camilo, pecking out a pop melody in a spontaneous improvisation — then the chords filled out, the harmonies became unhinged, and he drifted into the chromatic language of Ravel and Debussy. Another quiet high point.

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  Topics: Live Reviews , Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo,  More more >
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