Friday, January 11, 2013

David Murray Big Band with Macy Gray -- Howard Theatre - Jan 10 2013

David Murray Big Band with Macy Gray - I had to call up my old friend and music writer Jeff Wilson prior to the show as he convinced me to go with him to see David Murray about 30 years ago at a small jazz club in Dayton, Ohio. I saw him again in NYC and bought several albums as his jazz saxophone ability was extremely impressive. We speculated that the audience would be more inclined to be at tonight's show for Macy Gray, but with her R&B style, Murray's avant garde jazz style, and arrangements for big band jazz, there was some mystery as to what would come out of it all. Sure enough, most of the people at my table were there to see Macy Gray, although I was happy to have the guy next to me twice comment after a David Murray solo, that he saw why I was here to see him. Thankfully, in addition to his jazz conducting which was rather low-key aside from calling out solos and occasional coordinating moves,  he frequently pulled out his saxophone to take the lead. The one shining moment with just his playing featured his most intense free jazz moves, incredible circular breathing runs, and astonishing tones that induced a few gasps from the audience. The band was big with loads of brass, a brief flute solo and included drums, bass, electric guitar, and keyboards. They showed good flexibility with rock moves, R&B feel, varying jazz structures and worked well together as much as I can tell. Admittedly, this is the first big band show I have seen since Tito Puente in 1986 (although I also helped lift Count Basie's piano to the stage in 1980 prior to that fine show).
Macy Gray came out after the band had played a fifteen minute jazz number. She would sing 2-3 songs and take breaks for the rest of the 130 minute set. I was a little worried early as her second song was sung hunched over the sheet music stand and frankly, there was a lack of comfort that remained throughout the show. I did enjoy her breathy voice with just enough raspiness. She has a little bit of power at times, although style seems to be the key to her success. There is clearly some magic with her approach. She had many elements of a spacey diva and that was fun for the most part, especially with the costume changes every break. Still, there was something disjointed here on a technical or clinical level. But it was easy enough to just sit back and enjoy the better songs when the band locked in and she was in the zone. They concluded with a spirited "Every Now and Then" and I would guess most people went home happy, and quite a few eyes were opened to the skills of David Murray.

Quote of the Night: M.Gray... "Sexy people, you sure are quiet for DC".

Actually that is fairly normal for here these days, although there was a bit more energy later in the set.

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