Arriving for the late show, I was excited at the thought of hearing both Kenny Barron and Regina Carter on the same bill. Although they have performed and recorded together, no musical dialogue was heard between the two on this particular night. Instead they were both featured in their own high-powered ensembles.
Kenny Barron instigated the festivities. He wasted no time setting the tempo. As soon as he reached his instrument he took flight. Brazilian rhythms provided an inspiring canvas for Mr. Barron to display his melodic genius with an engaging palette of musical textures. He dug deep into the Brazilian grooves and his solos took the audience on a musical journey into the possibilities these rhythms afford the jazz improviser.
Although the set featured several tantalizing Brazilian numbers, two selections by Kenny Barron stood out. One was Thoughts and Dreams. The other was a song titled after the actress Sonia Braga. Kenny shared an interesting story about this song. One night he was performing it and, ironically, Sonia Braga happened to walk into the club.
Trio Da Paz is a tight-knit unit of musicians with exceptional improvisational skills. Made up of Nilson Matta on bass, Duduka DaFonseca on drums, and Romero Lubambo on guitar, they radiate a magnetic musical personality. Valtinho joined them on percussion. He was remarkable. One tune featured him singing and drumming and his voice, traversing an amazing range, was as stunning and mesmerizing as his percussion work. Anne Drummond, a student of Kenny Barron, was featured on the flute.
Opening her set with the Stevie Wonder hit "Higher Ground", Regina Carter dazzled the audience with her effortless command of the violin. A consummate professional, she epitomizes all that is good about the current generation of elite, young jazz stars. Her polished technique enhances rather than inhibits the soulful passion found in any great jazz performance. As a Detroit native, her deep sense of soul should come as no surprise.
The violin is a very sensitive and romantic instrument. These qualities were evident in a beautiful rendition of Love Theme From Spartacus. So moving was the performance of this particular ballad, I am not sure I will ever be the same. Other selections included a Kenny Barron original entitled "New York Attitude" and "Mohito", a song with some intriguing origins. It was inspired by a drink the band consumed in Cuba, which made it difficult to stand up. Featuring Cuban native Mayra Casales on percussion, this closing number really cooked. Regina was soaring on violin and then broke into dance. Soon her pianist, Werner "Vana" Gierig, joined her. Suddenly, another pianist, Wesley Reynoso, who had been in the front row, was pounding out the Cuban rhythm in his place.
The remaining members of the quintet were Chris Lightcap on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums. Both excellent musicians, Chris had some notable solos while Alvester displayed a sensitivity to the overall environment that underscored his appreciation of the art form.