|"Ultimate" big band|
|11/12/1997 - Just came back from Paris where I performed as sideman in what I can't help but characterize as one of the greatest bands I could imagine - an incarnation of the David Murray big band which featured my favorite instrumentalists on numerous instruments. It was a concert at La Cite de la Musique dealing with the "Obscure Side of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn", featuring new arrangements of their music by David and flutist James Newton, and the members of this stellar band included: drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassist Art Davis, a sax section consisting of the entire World Saxophone Quartet (David Murray, Oliver Lake, John Purcell and Hamiet Bluiett) plus Ricky Ford and Charles Owens, a trombone section consisting of all of the members of the group Slideride (Ray Anderson, Gary Valente, George Lewis and Craig Harris), my favorite trumpeter Hugh Ragin along with Bobby Bradford, Rasul Saddik and Ravi Best, plus vocalist Carmen Bradford and violinist Regina Carter, AND a 38 piece string section. Just walking into the rehearsal (actually the day of the gig; the others had been there the whole week but I showed up at the last minute so that I could make a showcase gig with my trio at the JazzTimes Convention the night before) was awe-inspiring - one great, individual player after another, approaching me to say "hi". And while I have worked with many of them before, I suppose it was just seeing that much creativity and originality under one roof which was breath-taking - truly my own "Great Day in Harlem" :-). |
I couldn't also help feel a twinge of sadness as I considered how relatively underappreciated these artists have become in their own country; for the most part, they belong to a conceptual and generational group that was pushed aside in favor of the supposedly more marketable "young lions", and while some of the players there have danced with the major record companies from time to time, for the most part these players have maintained great musical integrity, putting out some of the greatest albums in jazz in the last 25 years largely on various independent labels, slowing building and maintaining a following, and playing disproportionately to more appreciative European and Japanese audiences. The thing is, if one really examines the sheer scope and output of this band, their really is no comparison in terms of open-mindedness, moving the music forward while building on tradition (which is what I thought jazz was supposed to be about), and even accessibility; in other words, while relatively overlooked, these guys are still the most innovative and greatest players out there, and it was an honor to be in their company...