Well, it was quite a week for live music. There are a lot of things that can be substituted or forgotten. If you wanted, you could get away with never speaking another word to another human being. Never read an actual bound book. Forget seeing a movie in a theater. But there is no substitute for live music.
The week came to an end with Brian Blade, Bill Frisell, and Jenny Scheinman at The Village Vanguard. Well, it was Thursday, but who’s counting. The Vanguard is a NY institution, that looks nearly exactly as it did in its heyday. Every legend of jazz has played there, and the more spiritual among us like to imagine that there is a little spirit of those left behind.
It was a fitting week to visit, as Paul Motian had just passed away, the Vanguard was his home for the last few years, and Frisell was a member of his long running trio with Joe Lovano (who else would have the balls to have a trio with sax, drums, and guitar??)
One of my favorite shows of all time was the Brian Blade Fellowship at this venue a few years back. I couldn’t see a thing (which happens if you sit anywhere except the very front) but it made no difference. Everyone in the venue was straining their necks to see what Blade was up to behind the vast array of musicians on that tiny stage. This evening was a little easier, there were only 2 other up there.
The set was less experimental than you would imagine. Frisell had his pedal board, some looping devices, probably a magic pedal that allows him to play a Statocaster at the Village Vanguard and not look ridiculous doing so…and probably not a Boss Metal Zone. Scheinman was leading the band, playing most of the melody, but in truth, you can’t have Brian Blade on a stage and expect him not to be the focus.
It’s not even through showmanship or excessive display of chops. Blade could probably play just a ride cymbal with a broomstick and most of us would have been captivated. The man has something most do not. It goes beyond time. Its not speed, or some Dave Weckl-esque shit, he’s just operating on a level different from the rest of us. I commented to my friend that this is what Elvin Jones must have sounded like at the Vanguard. You can see everything he’s doing – he’s using the same tools available to anyone else. But he’s just extracting something different from them. He’s from New Orleans, let’s call it Voodoo.
This week it will continue, at a much more relaxed pace, with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, also Peter Lugers steak, and while that is not music, it is certainly worth noting.