Wednesday, July 8, 2009

CTI All-Stars Band 2009 @ Montreux, Part 1

After a cloudy afternoon, an unexpected rainy night in Montreux. At the Miles Davis Hall, at 8PM, another surprise: a group named Montreux Jazz on the Road, comprising winners of the Montreux Competitions 2008, featuring Sabine Kuehlich (vocals), Gael Rakotondrabe (piano) & Jeff Miles (guitar), was invited by Claude Nobs to appear as the opening act of the night. They perform for almost one hour, with a little response from the audience that paid from 90 to 180 CHF to attend the concerts by the CTI All Stars and Jamie Cullum.

During the intermission, Creed Taylor comes briefly to the stage, to give some instructions regarding mics and instruments. Then enters Randy Brecker, the last member of the CTI All Star superband to arrive in Montreux, a couple of hours before, after having played with the Kenny Werner Quintet in Canada (with Antonio Sanchez, David Sanchez and Scott Colley). "Hope the CTI music won't be too hard since I'll be sight reading!" says Randy, who makes some adjustments on his trumpet set-up, as shown on the pic below.
As usual, Montreux's founder and eternal boss, Claude Nobs, introduces the members of the CTI All Stars 2009 Band. As usual, also, not without a mistake: "Mark Egan on keyboards!" He regrets the error and, one by one, all are warmly applaused: Hubert Laws (flute), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Niels Lan Doky (piano & keyboard), Russell Malone (guitar), Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), Todd Bashore (alto sax & arranger), Bill Evans (tenor sax & soprano sax), Airto Moreira (congas & percussion) and Flora Purim (vocals and mainly master of ceremonies).

The audience screams when they start to play Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay," one of the CTI hymns. Although the arrangements were done by Todd Bashore, Bill Evans calls the tunes and acts as an unofficial leader. Evans' inspired performance was one of the good surprises in a night full of surprises. Brecker's takes the first solo on "Red Clay," but, looking exhausted, it takes some time for him to focus on the tune changes. Airto seems sad or bored. Or both. Evans, Malone, Lan Doky and Watts play their asses off and the song comes to a happy end.

But, wait a minute: a CTI concert without a Fender Rhodes? I can't believe!!! Lans Doky, a superb musician (and a true gentleman) whom I began to admire when I got, from Fantasy Records, a copy of his "Dreams" LP in the late 80s, plays mostly an acoustic piano, and occasionally a Roland keyboard, model RD-700GX. This leads my mind to other thoughts. And I still can't understand why, despite Mark Egan's excellence, Creed Taylor refused Ron Carter's offer to join the band. Neither I find out the reason why the legendary producer chose Jeff Watts instead of other drummers strongly associated with the CTI aesthetic: Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Bernard Purdie and Idris Muhammad, all alive and well. IMHO, more than the virtuosos Cobham and DeJohnette, the groove masters Purdie and Muhammad would have been the better choices for this context.

Conjectures and daydreams apart, the concert continues. And the reality brings nice versions of Wes Montgomery's "Road Song", "Amazing Grace" (a short Hubert Laws solo number from his "Morning Star" album still unreleased on CD, Jesus!), and Laws' own "Bimbe Blue", from his Atlantic album "The Laws of Jazz". The non-CTI song is OK. But... couldn't the greatest jazz flutist ever have selected "Fire and Rain," "Windows," "Farandole," "Feel Like Making of Love," "The Chicago Theme" or any other hit from his CTI days? Another mystery.
Airto brought every one in the audience to his feet with his solo spot on the "pandeiro," emulating the batucada of a samba school, and leading it to one of his early songs, "Misturada," recorded with the Quarteto Novo in 1967 but not included in any of his CTI projects.

Then we had Stanley Turrentine's signature song "Sugar," Weldon Irvine's "Mr. Clean" (a dancefloor classic from Freddue Hubbard's "Straight Life" album; btw, Todd Bashore also re-arranged FH's "First Light"), and Jamie Cullum sat in with the band to sing Bill Withers' "Use Me," the opening track from Esther Phillips' second date for CTI/Kudu, "Alone Again, Naturally." In the last encore, keyboard wiz George Duke (who, curiously, never took part of any CTI session!) and guitar genius John McLaughlin (who recorded for CTI on "Joe Farrell Quartet" in 1970 and "Fuse One" in 1980) joined the band on Benny Golson's "Blues March."

What happened with "San Francisco River" to be sung my favorite (and really the top) jazz vocalist of the 70s, Flora Purim? Well, she wasn't feeling well that night. So, besides a few wordless vocals in unison with Laws' flute on "Misturada," Flora acted as the MC of the night, introducing the musicians, thanking Creed Taylor, praising Claude Nobs ("say Claude's name louder, Flora!" Airto instructs from his percussion kit) and... nevermind. That's CTI, folks. Or not?

ps: this Montreux concert will come out as a CD and DVD supposedly, with additional recording in San Javier. Now, Creed Taylor is in the process of adding documentary filming on top of it.

pics by the Jazz Station team; all images copyrighted
(Bill Evans, Randy Brecker, Todd Bashore, Mark Egan, Hubert Laws)

(Airto Moreira)

(Evans, Brecker, Bashore, Laws)

(Bashore, Laws, Purim, Airto)

(Evans, Brecker, Bashore, McLaughlin)

1 comment:

vascoporfiao said...

No los conozco pero estoy investigando y quiero aprender sobre este género eterno que es el jazz, saludos. Jazz para el espíritu!!