Friday, December 13, 2002

Fred Gets Funky

Just got back from listening to three straight hours of fantastic live jazz: Skip Pearson's Christmas show at the Hunter-Gatherer, with Special Guest Fred Wesley, Jr.

Fred -- who did sign my Bootsy album by the way -- was out of this world; he has a sound as big as he is, and he's a big dude. He can make that horn do anything, and he can do it casually, easily; with the kind of grace that only a true lifelong professional can bring to his craft. There was one tune where he was going to lay out and went off in the corner to sign some books; he does that awhile, comes back, has a solo, sits out, heads for the john, comes back, picks up where he left off with another solo: blowing the shit out of that horn without breaking a sweat.

The Hunter-Gatherer is a small club, and people came and went throughout the show, as did players, especially during the second set, which was very loose. Very much of a rotating personnel.: player showed up, played, left, others came in. Truly spontaneous and at several points downright funky. Skip -- a superb tenor saxman -- had a bunch of young men from some jazz workshop come in, one of whom was Fred's son Victor, a fine horn player in his own right. All of them, to my musically illiterate ears, were just terrific, and I loved their freedom and cameraderie as they swapped solos, each one cranking the beat up a notch. Highlights: Skip's elegant vocals on "The Christmas Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas";Fred and Victor doubling on Charlie Parker's "Now's the Time"; the whole vast band -- all the trumpets, altos and tenors that had shuffled in -- cranking up a funk tune at Fred's direction, then Skip and all tenor saxes plus Fred joining up for a fantastic closer: Sonny Rollins' "Tenor Madness," although Skip retited it "Tenor Madness plus Bone." A riveting evening of pure sound. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

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