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A group of musicians as eclectic and pioneering as this come together only so often. It is with great sincerity that I thank the musicians for this rare collaboration. Arthur Blythe took this opportunity at the Blue Note to feature some of the most venerable members of the "free jazz" genre. Arthur, a genius on his instrument (alto saxophone), is a giant pillar of this art form in his own right. Manning the tenor sax was none other than world music and free jazz innovator Dewey Redman. One of the most original sounding guitarists, James Blood Ulmer, was also featured. Soul jazz legend Dr. Lonnie Smith added his B-3 funk aesthetic. Rounding out this jazz powerhouse was Jeff "Tain" Watts, one of the finest drummers on the scene.

The group opened with As of Yet, an uptempo number that was highlighted by a Dr. Lonnie Smith solo and strong percussion work from Mr. Watts. This was followed by an extended version of Faceless Woman. Arthur Blythe’s beautiful alto was complemented by the deep, earthy tones from Dewey Redman’s tenor as the melody gave way to a solo by Blythe that evoked the spirit of an ancient healer performing a sacred ritual. A soulful exchange between Dr. Lonnie and James Ulmer followed. An extended guitar solo, which included what sounded like a flanger pedal, started out heavy and moved to slower, mellower tones.

Dewey’s solo followed. Dewey plays his instrument like he is painting or quilting, taking you on a journey that is unfolding before you. Dr. Lonnie then covered a multitude of Hammond B-3 sounds, from what sounded like horror movie soundtracks to electronic or computer-generated sounds, and ended with some serious church music before going back into the melody. As the band played the melody on the way out, the interaction between Arthur and Dewey was priceless, each finding their own space and their own way to create a wonderful mosaic.

To put some serious icing on the cake, the powerful voice of Avery Brooks was featured on the final two selections. A gorgeous introduction on the alto by Blythe ignited the traditional Come Sunday. Avery Brooks’ deep, rich voice is mesmerizing. More than just a singer, he is the quintessential performer. Captivating the crowd with his charisma, his strong delivery, his facial expressions, and his body movements, he is a delight to behold. The sheer joy he derives and emanates from being on the stage shine through. Never was this more apparent than during his treatment of the ballad Someone To Watch Over Me, quite a way to close the show.

Notes: NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabaar was in the front row. Judging from the smile on his face, he was enjoying the show!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Arthur Blythe
  • Concert Date: 4/21/2005
  • Subtitle: Arthur Blythe Leads Amazing Cast of Unique Artists
  • Venue: Blue Note
  • City State Country: New York, New York, USA
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