by Steve MacQueen, Artistic Director
Between the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, artists on the MainStage and in FlynnSpace, and FlynnArts jazz-combo classes for youth and adults, the Flynn’s commitment to jazz is pretty hard to miss. In the coming winter months, we’ll feature three tremendous jazz artists.
Terri Lyne Carrington Quartet: Money Jungle
Friday, January 30 at 8 pm, MainStage
In 1962, a trio of jazz immortals—pianist Duke Ellington, bassist Charles Mingus, and drummer Max Roach—recorded its one and only album, the classic Money Jungle. It was a record that influenced generations and left a lasting imprint on the form.
You’ve got to have a lot of confidence—and a whole lotta chops—to take on a musical legacy like Money Jungle. Honestly, when I first heard the concept, I was ready to dismiss the record out of hand. Redo Money Jungle? It’s like remaking Citizen Kane. Kinda pointless.
Fortunately, drummer/bandleader Terri Lyne Carrington didn’t listen to me, and soundly proved me wrong. Provocations in Blue, her take on the famed session, which plays at the Flynn on Friday, January 30. Possibly the most accomplished drummer of her generation, the 49-year-old Carrington has beaten the skins for Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Dianne Reeves, and many more, but she’s really starting to shine as a leader.
Her Jungle is both reverent of its source and open-minded in its approach, adding original material, traveling down different improvisational paths, and supplementing the trio sound with a saxophone. The result is a marvel of past-meets-present, and the recorded version netted Carrington the Best Jazz Instrumental Album Grammy in 2014. Amazingly, she is the first woman to win the award.
“You have to be able to appreciate the past if you want to have a future,” Carrington has said. “I think that’s a big part of our job as artists and entertainers and educators—to keep reminding the younger musicians how important our predecessors were.”
Thursday, February 19 at 7:30 pm, MainStage
There is little doubt that Gregory Porter is a jazz singer. His music is filed under that genre, it’s a description he answers to, and he won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, so . . . jazz singer.
But to me, Porter’s voice and approach are also reminiscent of the early-‘70s R&B sound (sometimes dubbed “folk-soul”) exemplified by such adventurous artists as Bill Withers, Terry Callier, and Donny Hathaway. With his soulful, expressive baritone steeped in gospel, Porter connects the dots between Nat King Cole and the present, between jazz, pop, funk, and soul. And he’s happy to acknowledge it.
“There are songs (in my set) that a 68-year-old grandma likes,” Porter explains. “And there are hard-hitting, more bass- and funk-infused things. That’s part of my vocabulary as well. And I don’t do them as a separate part of the show—they co-mingle and co-exist.”
Porter didn’t start out seeking a career as “the next great male jazz singer” (NPR). As a football player at San Diego State University, Porter suffered a knee injury that ended any dreams of pro sports, but led to something better. He might have been an okay linebacker, but he’s one hell of a singer. Onstage, Porter dominates the proceedings, projecting an infectious joy that cannot be faked.
And as for that kangol hat that he wears all the time, well . . . “It’s my thing,” he says. Good enough for me.
Fred Hersch Trio
Friday, February 27 at 8 pm, FlynnSpace
When it comes to critical praise for jazz pianists, Fred Hersch practically has the market cornered:
“A master.” —New York Times
“The most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade.” —Vanity Fair
“Truly transcendent.” —Boston Globe
“Fred is like LeBron James on the basketball court. He’s perfection.” —Jason Moran
And there’s more where that came from. At age 58, Hersch is finally getting some of his due, having long been one of the most adept and adventurous musicians in jazz, an artist who simultaneously traverses the avant-garde and the beautiful. Oh, and he swings, too.
Hersch plays FlynnSpace with his longtime trio, featuring bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson. The Wall Street Journal calls this trio “one of the major ensembles of our times.”
As a jazz musician, Hersch has played with the great musicians of the era. As a composer, he’s contributed some of the most enduring music of the past 25 years. As a pianist, he’s collaborated with musicians outside the jazz world, including Renee Fleming, Christopher O’Riley, and Audra MacDonald. And as an educator, he has influenced nurtured the next generation of jazz pianists, such as former students Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson (The Bad Plus).
It’s hard to put this bluntly enough, but here goes: no jazz fan should miss the opportunity to see this band in this intimate space. It’s an amazing treat that should not be passed up. If I’m running late, save me a seat near the front, piano side.