John Scofield and Mike Stern soothe and awe at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts
Mike Stern Trio (rather Mike Stern plus three) and John Scofield with the Piety Street Band played the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival Tuesday June 29th, 2010, presented by Coastal Jazz & Blues Society, a non-profit charitable arts organization in Vancouver.
The venue, The Centre for Performing Arts was described as an 'impressive place' by some out-of-towners. Impressive is a good way to characterize the proceeding events after the excited comment. There was a good number of echo boomers in the crowd. Is this perhaps, because gospel is an ageless music that appeals to people from all walks of life for its quality of feel-goodness?
Scofield is known for his awesome handle over pace and for the evocativeness his compositions. However, this night was about Louisiana tradition for Sco.
Mike Stern plays and writes from the heart because he considers music a language of the heart. For Mike Stern, the night was about FUN. He has a happy heart. With style measurable against John McLaughlin and the ability to alternate from chaos to smoothness like a lightswitch, I almost felt a modern semblance of Django Reinhardt. Suddenly, Jazz turned to Rock and back agains via some sort of witchcraft. Wailing saxophone and allusions to Grunge music were effortlessly formulated by the group, including an awesomely comfortable drummer. They really were super tight.
Mike Stern knows how to shred without wanking (put in technical musicians' terms.) He's an expert at laying down the '4' (straight beat) through composition. There were hints of Peter Gabriel and of Dave Matthews. Mike Stern's music has the ability to be solemn, yet imaginative, like the genre of Tango.
John Scofield performed with the Piety Street Band, named after the location of their recording project. Scofield granted a rich serotonin rush from the very first phrase. He was playing to a bobbing crowd. The keyboardist, Jon Cleary made it look easy to play piano and tambourine simultaneously. The setlist was all-Gospel except for one song, 'Let the Good Times Roll', featuring one of many back-breaking solos by Scofield. Cleary and bassist George Porter Jr. provided all the vocals for the evening and excelled wildly in the process.
Scofield called Mike Stern a "monstrous, incredible guitar player and man." I think that's a compliment.
'Walk With Me' started with an incredibly tense intro, sliding into deep resolution. Scofield was so interested and connected with his band he often forgot to face the audience.
Somehow, John Scofield always makes the strangest passing tones work. Dancing with his guitar, Scofield could be extremely funky at times. Close to the conclusion, a hook from Purple Haze snuck in, and the band went with it. Smiling as if they weren't sure how it happened, they continued to rock.
The band mastered a tribute to Hank Williams' 'Angel of Death', which is, in Sco's words, "...the scariest song I ever heard."
What a night!
This year's TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival runs until July 4th, 2010.
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