Sunday, October 21, 2007

Clearwater Jazz Holiday: Brian Bromberg Rips + More

Good music was everywhere to be found Saturday, for the third day of the 28th Annual Clearwater Jazz Holiday.

Medeski Martin and Wood, playing in front of a crowd of jazz fans largely seeing the trio for the first time, offered their typically groove-a-licious brand of organ-trio jazz, funk and experimental/electronic detours.

The grooves were deep and hypnotic, as John Medeski rotated between a variety of keyboards (B3, Wurlitzer, electric pianos), bassist Chris Wood switched between acoustic and electric, and drummer Billy Martin steered the ship forward with steady, creative rhythm-keeping and artful use of percussion toys.

The trio even included a tune that ought to have been familiar to the longtime jazz fans in the crowd -- Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'." The set wound down against a backdrop of fireworks in the night sky.

Arturo Sandoval preceded MMW with a high-energy set of Latin jazz, led by a guy who knows how to entertain -- Sandoval encouraged the crowd to dance ("Express yourself," he said), offered stratospheric, lightning-fast trumpet runs, played keyboards and pounded on timbales. He opened with electric fusion, the title track from a latter-day Miles album.

The downside: Sound-production woes consistently caused problems, including feedback and (worst of all) a screw-up that meant the saxophonist's EWI (electronic wind instrument) was never heard, despite the fact that he was furiously working the thing.

By far, the best set of the day was provided by a band led by Brian Bromberg, an acoustic and electric bassist who demonstrated why he's one of the best -- rock-solid funk grooves and jazz walking, and an arsenal of musical, mindblowing techniques, including tapping, sliding, harmonics and astonishing single-note runs.

Bromberg's "Downright Upright" band, named for his new CD of the same title, was loaded with talent in every position -- trumpeter Randy Brecker, tenor saxophonist Gary Meek, keyboardist Mitch Forman and phenomenal drummer Dave Weckl.

The quintet did a great job revitalizing some overdone tunes, turning in a slow and greasy version of Joe Zawinul's "Mercy Mercy Mercy" and irresistible work-outs of Eddie Jefferson's "Cold Duck Time" and Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" (the show-opener) and "Canteloupe Island."

Impressive Bromberg originals, too -- "Leisure Suit," "Slow Burn."

More coming later on Saturday's edgy opener -- Michael Ross Quartet -- and music I caught on Thursday and Friday.

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