'Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival 2015,' it's the Mack Avenue SuperBand [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com | Feb 06, 2016 12:35 PM EST
Mack Avenue SuperBand in Detroit (Photo : courtesy Mack Avenue Records)

In 2012, Mack Avenue Records sent a good portion of its artist roster to perform together (many for the first time) at the annual Labor Day weekend Detroit Jazz Festival. It went so well, they've been invited back for the fourth straight year. Last year, bassist Christian McBride took over for fellow bassist Rodney Whitaker as Musical Director. The results can be heard on the new in-concert jam, Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival 2015.

McBride has gone on to become his generation's Ron Carter. In 2009, Inside Straight's Kind of Brown hit Mack Avenue like a storm. McBride was the bassist. It was his label debut. Now, pianist Christian Sands and trumpeter Freddie Hendrix make their SuperBand debuts alongside returning leaders Carl Allen (drums), Tia Fuller and Kirk Whalum (sax) and Gary Burton (vibes). The result is what you might expect when artists who are leaders of their own bands put aside their egos and jam mightily under McBride's direction. (Hint: it's a party.)

It's especially thrilling to hear Burton play some straightahead bebop as he's become an icon of the modern. Whalum, more than most, puts aside his smooth side to really get down and on his "Preach Hank," he emulates Hank Crawford [1934-2009], the swivel-hipped sax man who used to roll with his rhythm on the bandstand like he was Elvis in the '50s. The "Sudden Impact" free-for-all must have been a real hoot to see live and outdoors in the heat of the stifling weather that weekend. McBride's "Paint Brushes" has the kind of tricky chord changes and odd meter that might befuddle lesser jazz-folk but here, its pristine beauty-in 5/4, no less!-holds the crowd rapturous. Makoto Ozone's "Test Of Time" is also complex, invoking Thelonious Monk in its adventurism yet oh-so-slow bluesy ramblings.

The solos are spread out. The chemistry and interplay is, in a word, amazing, when you again consider these are all artists who all have their own sounds, band and CDs as leaders. Be on the lookout for the 2016 version of such who will tour nationally.

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