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 Tuesday, 26 May 2015
SF Bay Area
Esperanza Spalding Presents "Emily's D + Evolution" -- Rocking at the Independent Print
Written by Ken Vermes   


On May 5, a packed club in San Francisco, the Independent, was about to see jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding present her new music and stage presentation,  Emily’s D + Evolution. Quite a number of the listeners that night had either never seen her, or were vaguely familiar with her music through videos or word of mouth. What they couldn’t have known was that the transformation of one of the world’s highest profile jazz bass player was about to take place in a way no one could have predicted.

Charles Lloyd at SFJazz Print
Written by Ken Vermes   

Charles Lloyd©Andrea Canter

Like the Pharoah Sanders concert earlier this year, the Charles Lloyd series of shows at SFJAZZ on April 24-26 demonstrated how, if you persevere, your time will come. Lloyd burst onto the jazz scene with a group of fellow “new” stars, among them Chico Hamilton, Herbie Hancock, Cannonball Adderley, Jeremy Steig and Denny Zeitlin. From 1965-69, Lloyd led a quartet with Keith Jarrett, Cecil McBee and Jack DeJohnette, a fusion of straight-ahead post-bop, free jazz, and world music that became a hit with fans and critics, particularly their iconic album, Forest Flower: Live at Monterey. But Lloyd's popularity would be a mixed blessing for someone who would take years to come to terms with the consequences of success.

Tammy Hall Scores the Perfect Set at SFJAZZ Print
Written by Ken Vermes   
Tammy Hall

There is the no-hitter, the perfect game, the hole-in-one, and my favorite, the golden set in tennis. All these “perfects” occur in music as well. Yet to our knowledge, no one has named this phenomena. How about just stealing that tennis accolade, the “golden set," the achievement of a musical “set” that starts and finishes in the special dimension of life that few people on the planet ever occupy: absolute perfection.

Tammy Lynne Hall is a pianist who spends most of her time playing behind Bay Area singers and others. In this role, she is often in the background, while the lead performer gets all of the notice. Of course this has begun to change as performers such as Pamela Rose, for example, have made a special point of emphasizing that Tammy plays an essential role in many of these gigs. She is not just playing the chords and soloing, but also running the band, adjusting the music, and analyzing the arrangements for possible improvements among many other chores. This is the role so many pianists play, especially for singers. In a recent performance by Cecil McLorin Salvant streamed live from Lincoln Center, it was the pianist Aaron Diehl watching and listening to every note of the tribute to Billie Holiday.


Chris Potter Takes Charge at SFJAZZ Print
Written by Ken Vermes   
Chris Potter © Andrea Canter

There is a reason that the saxophone has been one of the most dominant instruments in the history of jazz. Its range, timbre, flexibility, and long history in the music gives it a dynamic hard to match. It isn’t that there have not been great pianists, trumpeters, bass players, and the rest. But when sax players take charge, master the instrument, and propel themselves to the head of the class, it can be said that there is cause for a major celebration. Such moments are rare in any art. In music they happen when one player, or an entire band, creates a sense of peak effort that is sustained and memorable beyond any others like it. There are many fans of this music who never see any moments like these. And they were a lot more frequent when the great masters were on the planet, such as August 12, 1958 when the “Great Day in Harlem” photo was created, for example. Or in the time when one could walk the jazz listeners' paradise on 52nd Street in New York City.

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