Regatta Bar

Bill Evans’ Soulgrass – Preview for February 22nd Shows

Seeing a quote like, “Bill is one of the greatest musicians I’ve come upon,” to describe the great saxophonist, Bill Evans, is quite high praise, but the bar gets set really high when the quote is from the greatest musician himself, Miles Davis.  The thing is though, unlike some musicians that occasionally fall short of the praise they’ve received, Bill Evans and Soulgrass will have absolutely no problem meeting incredible expectations come their show on Saturday.  Come in expecting some monstrous jams, some of the greatest sax lines you’ll ever hear, a roaring banjo, cool tunes, phenomenal band to back it up, and you’ll get all of your desires met. We’re in store for quite a show!

Soulgrass, Evans’ current project, was initiated when he released an album in 2006 that featured his great sax playing along with bluegrass icons like Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan and others.  Still going super strong today, he now has a set band that features the impeccable musicianship of Ryan Cavanaugh, Josh Dion, Mitch Stein, Clifford Carter, and Andy Hess.  Each musician is at the top of their game and typically leaves the audience delightfully stunned with their virtuosity.  One would be hard-pressed to find a sax player into more things than their leader, Bill Evans.  In his career, he has worked alongside Miles, recording 6 albums with him, as well as the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Mick Jagger, Lee Ritenour, Dave Weckl, Dave Grusin, Herbie Hancock, Sam Bush, Warren Haynes and many others.  He has recorded 19 solo albums and is no stranger to GRAMMY awards.  An active touring musician, we are lucky to have this icon pass through Cambridge!

(Want to get a listen before Saturday?  Check out his newest album Dragonfly as well as his previous albums The Other Side of Something and Soulgrass)

~Matt Scutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)

Dave Holland Prism Review – February 13, 2014

Look through a prism.  What do you see?  You’ll see light get split into all the colors of the rainbow.  But if you keep looking…and listening, you’ll see something that lies beyond that prism, woven between all the colors; something even more bright and magical – Dave Holland’s Prism.

Just a couple hours before Prism took the stage, greater Boston was a winter disaster.  Venues were closing every minute and when school was cancelled, too, I wondered if there would be a concert to go to, but luckily the band was already in town.  The weather finally calmed and two packed rooms were wowed beyond comprehension at the show they got to enjoy.  As I was waiting to go in for the second set, I heard numerous expressions of joy as people said things like “Was that good or what!?” or “Could you believe that!?” I (as well as some friends of mine that I was discussing this show with) am very familiar with Holland and all of his countless projects and work, but I frankly hadn’t had time to listen to this new album of his since it had come out and didn’t really know what kind of concert I was in for.  I knew only one thing – if Holland was involved, it was going to be good.  Good?  That isn’t even appropriate for how this new band played.  Awesome would be closer.  Rumors that this show was reminiscent of the electric era of Miles with a couple hints of avant-garde had me readily excited for what was to come.  As with many of the other shows at The Regattabar Jazz Club, very little could have prepared me for the show Prism put on.  The rumors were true.  Hints of Miles and avant-garde were in there – basically modern jazz that happened to be on the edge and electric.  This was also my first time experiencing Holland’s band mates, and whoa, Kevin Eubanks on guitar wasn’t holding a thing back during those sets.  Someone from the audience said it sounded like he was channeling John McLaughlin. Whether he was or not, Eubanks had total control of his instrument, going anywhere from quiet Frisell-ish volume swells to full-out gritty shredded solos.  The same goes for the other two band members, Craig Taborn and Eric Harland.  Both were very dynamic and expressive on their instruments and collectively, the quartet was taking jazz to new places.

In a show that was over an hour, one might be surprised that the group only played four pieces, but four glorious pieces they were.  The moment was right, the solos were great, and they just stretched the tunes out for as long as they wanted.  The four pieces were off their new album including two by Holland, “The Watcher” and “The Empty Chair,” and one each from Taborn and Eubanks.  (Now is also a time to remind you to buy their new album – it’s really great and it’s on vinyl, too!).  No matter how you originally knew Holland – be it from the iconic Bitches’ Brew album or his work with bluegrass legend, John Hartford, you’ll enjoy his new ideas just as much as ever.  There didn’t seem to be a single disappointed fan in the house.  Oh yeah, and Herbie Hancock just happened to drop in, too.  Surprise!

~Matt Scutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)

Boubacar Diabate and SambaLolo

The Regattabar Jazz Club guests who made their way through the most recent winter storm were brought together for a real treat Saturday. Boubacar Diabate and his group SambaLolo played a warm, fun show which helped their audience escape the cold Boston winter for the duration of the experience. Boubacar is a singer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist from Mali; his voice is energetic, inviting, and warm. During the performance, spectators found themselves standing up, dancing, clapping, and even singing along with the group. Throughout the course of the performance, Boubacar was consistently the focus of the presentation, but between songs, he would pass the reigns off to his fellow performers to get perspective on the meaning and the tradition behind the pieces. The themes of the songs ranged from peace, love, and even death. Throughout, however, one motif was consistent, in that a sense of community and togetherness was always present and significant to the experience of each song. This could be felt in the very feel of the pieces, as many in the audience found themselves dancing together, singing, and meeting one another. Boubacar’s vocals and guitar playing were excellent and fantastically well accompanied by percussion, bass, and electric piano. The percussion setup was essential and included a drum kit, a master drum, and two djembes. The percussion players in the group drive the music and are what allow Boubacar’s melodies to be so engaging. Instead of having one focal player, the band has so many driving elements that it sometimes feels as if Boubacar is having a call and response conversation with the percussion, which gives the audience the opportunity to join in the music. Ultimately, building this interaction and a sense of community is the goal of this group’s music. Throughout the course of the performance, the music experience became less performer-audience oriented and became more about a big group of people making, participating in, and enjoying music. Some friends of the band joined in playing djembe, and others performed alongside the group. By the end, the lines between audience and performer seemed blurred, if they were still there at all.

~ Bobby Ortega (blues guitarist, graduate student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology)

Donny McCaslin Quartet Delights a Packed Show at The Regattabar Jazz Club

When asked, “How was that show?” a person is left with a variety of words to use to respond.  Most of the time, we hear the same words again and again no matter what show is in discussion: great, awesome, best one yet, phenomenal, astounding, etc.  While those words all describe Donny McCaslin’s show accurately, there’s one word that describes it perfectly.  “Virtuosic.”  Last night, the audience witnessed not only music that was great, wholesome, gratifying, and cutting edge but also experienced musicians of impeccable skill level that were displaying technical mastery that few others on their instrument share.  The many that were there for the show experienced an amazing show.  Nothing in the world could have prepared me for what I was going to hear.

I had briefly looked up Donny before attending the show because he was a new name to me.  In about 30 seconds on Google, I saw tons of Berklee hits popping up, realizing that Donny had attended there as well as working with a variety of Berklee faculty on projects.  I listened to a variety of his recordings and heard mainly straight-ahead jazz, and enjoyed the high level musicianship contained on his previous albums.  I guess I missed seeing his newest, Casting for Gravity, the album that the show was loosely based upon, for I had no idea I was in for a delightful evening of cutting edge jazz fusion.

Backed by a band of all bands, Donny’s quartet included Jason Linder on keys, Tim Lefebvre on bass, and Mark Guiliana on drums.  I was excited to see this show after having previously encountered Guiliana with Brad Mehldau during their tour which passed through Cambridge.  Guiliana was crazy great at that show, but he was amazing last night!  Extremely intricate drum fills that I have seen few drummers attempt or execute.  Enjoying my seat right next to the pianist, it was a joy to watch Linder execute some of the wildest most amazing piano phrases I’ve ever seen.  Equipped with an acoustic piano and two synths running through additional pedals, his palate of sounds to choose from was nearly endless.  The impeccable bassist of the night was also having fun with some sounds past a regular electric bass.  With a ring modulator and octaver among other pedals, Lefebvre would put in a crazy touch at just the right time.  It was with these sounds that I realized…wait! I’ve heard this guy before…then I realized, he was with the amazing Wayne Krantz when he stopped through at Regattabar last year.  What a show that was, and what a show this was.  In ways, they shared similarities, such as the sonic explorations that occurred through the heavy use of crazy cool effect pedals.  Of course, Donny was shining the entire night too.  An extremely good sax player, I was more so impressed by his compositions.  Each piece evolved so much, contained so much intricacy, and were so cohesive.  He was doing some really crafty moves as a composer.  It was a great time getting to experience his work.  The show ended with a friendly visit to all of the band and a copy of their GRAMMY-nominated album in my hands.  If they came back once a week for a year, I’d be at every one of the shows – they’re that good.

~Matt Scutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)