Joined by our friend Tatanya, I stood in the line that formed early at Kilbourn Hall to hear Joe Locke & Force of Four play. I've heard Joe Locke play here a number of times in my short time in his hometown, but knew that this night would be special. In all the times he's played here, he had never played in Kilbourn. This was the first time and it was clear that it meant a lot to him. Being able to listen to Locke's vibes and his new band Force of Four in the acoustically fine hall meant a lot to us. Working a his tight new young band with Robert Rodriguez on piano, Ricardo Rodriguez on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums seems to have been a wonderful learning experience for Locke and it showed as they played a number of originals from their new album Force of Four, which will be released on Origin Records in September, but was made available to his hometown festival goers early. As he was with friends, Joe talked and caught us up on his life. A telling comment Locke made reveals a lot about him and why he tries so many new projects, which this year has included working with Trio Da Paz, Columbian harpist Edmar Casteneda, and having his music arranged and played by a symphony orchestra with him as soloist —the guy is always about trying to learn and expand his musical vocabulary. He explained that is has been a heady year, with these projects as well as an appointment to the faculty of the UK Royal Academy of Music and winning 2008 "Mallet Player of the Year" Award from the Jazz Journalist Association (which I don't think he mentioned as he won it yesterday). But Joe didn't talk the whole set, he let his vibes do most of the talking in a set that ranged from joyous to haunting and left the notes from his four mallets ringing through the hall. When the final note of the "story" piece "Available in Blue," I overheard a woman behind me exclaim "God ... that was so beautiful." I'm looking forward to hearing this album and other projects as Joe Locke continues his education in jazz and music.
We headed over to the church to try out Beady Belle, the Norwegian group. Whoever wrote the entry for the band in Wikipedia describes their style as "jazz and acid-jazz inspired using upbeat and downbeat electronica roots, use of vocal harmonies, piano and strings." They are that and a lot more. They played a number of originals that had a lot of layers to back up the rich and beautiful voice of the lead singer Beate S. Lech. This was the band's first gig in its first tour of the United States. The full-house audience just ate them. The RIJF'ers that come to the Nordic Jazz Now series at the Reformation church tend to have open minds and are there to hear good music played by good musicians and, often, to open their ears to those who play it from across the pond from the colder climates. We've not seen a real musical dog in two years of these and we've not seen one that is the same as the other—showing the rich diversity of talent coming out of Norway, Finland , Sweden and Denmark. Beady Belle's music was rocking, soulful, interesting and played by a group of very talented musicians. All of the songs were in English (although Lech went into a kind of Norwegian accent parody during one interlude). Here they are being a bit more jazzy and scatting in Germany.
Our upstairs neighbor Kristine had joined us after meeting her at Beady Belle. We intended to go hear Tierney Sutton in Max. However, I forgot that sometimes Max lets people in for the second set early to get them fed and liquored up before the show, so instead of the line snaking down Gibbs it is just let in and the line that forms are those who are waiting in case someone leaves (one in, one out). By the time we realized what was going on, it was too late. So Kristine and I took a chance and went over to Montage to catch Blake Tartare ("raw," get it?). Blake Tartare is no Tierney Sutton (but saxophonist leader Michael Blake wouldn't want to be would he?), but it was one hell of a ride and another great stumble into music that I really loved hearing. By the crowd (quite a few of whom I knew), it was clear to me that this would be music more on the fringe. Blake Tartare is the latest project of saxophonist/composer Michael Blake, who fronts a quartet of young Danish improvisers: Soren Kjaergaard on Fender Rhodes and piano, Jonas Westergaard on bass, and Kresten Osgood on drums. Their music ranged across the spectrums and highlighted each of them. The drummer Osgood was intense, looking like he just walked out of a frat house (with beer), but applying himself to his skins like his life depended on it. In their encore they engaged the house in whistling (in harmony) the melody from a pop tune that I'm too old to place working it to a crescendo of whistles, floor tom pounding and beer bottle tooting. It was a great show and had Tom Kohn from the Bop Shop ready to tie a toe tag on his festival as he was fully sated. I'm sure he has their CD and I may have to go get a copy. For a taste of Blake Tartare, here they are in playing a outdoor pizzeria in Venice.
What are the rest of them saying? Here some other voices on Day 7:
- Jeff Spevak on Joe Locke and Force of Four in Locke brings good vibes to jazz festival in the Democrat & Chronicle.
- Anna Reguero in the D&C on the ladies singing last night in A night of sweet vocals and Joe Locke in Force of Nature and other posts.
- Brendan Guisti details his day in JAZZ BLOG 08, DAY 7: Boz Scaggs does not work for M&T Bank
- Frank DeBlase and his take on Blake Tartare, Tierney Sutton and Beady Belle in JAZZ BLOG 08, DAY 7: Alley cat slink
- Ron Netsky looks at Joe Locke Force of Four and Blake Tartare in JAZZ BLOG 08, DAY 7: What the music means to him.
- Pop Wars on Blake Tartare (with a picture of the whistling) in Whistle While You Work.