Friday was the start of the jazz festival, and the first of my twelve gigs over ten days: John Scofield Uberjam and the Mike Stern / Randy Brecker band at the Festival Theatre.
I went mainly because I love Scofield’s music: I first saw him round about the release of Time On My Hands, nearly thirty years ago. But it was actually Stern who impressed on the night.
John Scofield Uberjam were good but it felt a bit perfunctory. Good jazz-funk, but it never really caught fire. I expected brilliance, and felt a bit disappointed. But even on an off night – and this wasn’t an off night – Scofield is still better than most.
I think I was most disappointed with Dennis Chambers: an awesomely experienced drummer. Someone told me after the gig that he’d had sound problems. What he did was good, but he didn’t shine.
Whereas the Mike Stern / Randy Brecker band were superlative. Their start was delayed by technical problems with Brecker’s trumpet mike (I think): Stern joked about, chatting to the audience and strumming his guitar – “I’ve been working on that for years”, he joked.
Mike Stern. Not at this gig, but hey, he looks just the same.
And when they got going, they were superb. They had Lenny White in the drum chair: he played on (bits of) Bitches Brew with Miles Davis, nearly fifty years ago. And last night he was amazing. He made it look easy.
Brecker’s trumpet playing was great, even when he still looked pissed off after his sound problems. The bass player, Teymur Phell (at least that’s who was billed – I couldn’t catch his name) was very impressive, playing a seven- or eight-string bass, not showy off but hugely competent.
And Mike Stern was… Mike Stern. His mood seems infectious – even before he started playing it seemed like he was having so much fun, and really pleased to be there. He comes across like he’s a fan of his own band, cheering their solos, and loving the applause he received fun the audience, too.
I’ve seen him play several times in the last few years, none of which I went to because of him: but every time he has excelled. Hugely entertaining.