On the final evening of the JVC-New York Festival, I sauntered down to the
Charles Lloyd Quartet performance at The Society for Ethical Culture. This
seems like the perfect place to see Lloyd perform, on principle alone. His
unabashed jazz ethos and spiritual bent create an immediate and humane
environment. The hall acoustics, however, are a total non-starter for the
sound of live jazz. A massive wash of drums and indistinct piano notes.
The opening act was our nation's poet laureate, Charles Simic.
"Club Midnight" is some pretty powerful verse:
Are you the sole owner of a seedy night club?
Are you its sole customer, sole bartender,
Sole waiter prowling around the empty tables?
Do you put on wee-hour girlie shows
With dead stars of black and white films?
Is your office upstairs over the neon lights,
Or down deep in the dank rat cellar?
Are bearded Russian thinkers your silent partners?
Do you have a doorman by the name of Dostoyevsky?
Is Fu Manchu coming tonight? Is Miss Emily Dickinson?
Do you happen to have an immortal soul?
Do you have a sneaky suspicion that you have none?...
The quartet started behind Simic, and proceeded to play with the musicality
that jazz fans have come to expect from Lloyd's ensembles. Jason Moran is
the pianist, Reuben Rogers the bassist, and Eric Harland the drummer. Their
trip through Lloyd classics like "Requiem" and "Monk's Dance" were well
received, as was the newer material from the quartet's recent release, Rabo
de Nube. I had to really work hard to hear the music, but the payoff was
Hope is the thing with feathers. That's what Emily Dickinson wrote. Then again, Emily never left her bedroom, which sounds pretty hopeless. She never saw a moor, nor the sea. And she would not have gone to an Esperanza Spalding show, like I did this morning.
I always ask musicians I know for the scoop on who's coming up. Joe Lovano told me about Esperanza. I checked out her MySpace page, but I had not seen her live.
Her quartet featured Otis Brown Jr. on drums, Leonardo Genovese on piano and Fender Rhodes, and Jamie Haddad on percussion. Esperanza plays bass, and she sings.
Here are two songs about lost love, from two very different times and attitudes.
Esperanza Spalding has a new recording coming out in May on Heads Up Records. - Josh