Santa Barbara in Words
Kevin Lee our magician opened the performance. The stage was in a no frills auditorium. It was back to basics with the halls, the littlest decor possible. It reminded me of EPCOT and the land or ocean exhibit. The ceiling looked like a layered cake, adding layers as it approached the stage.
Celeste, one of the directors, introduced Kevin onto the stage. Kevin juggled a torch of fire and then blew fire. Quite spectacular, and the audience was impressed. I feel bad for the fellow named “Salut” in the audience — Kevin picked on him and brought him on stage.
Wynton then took the stage. He started by explaining that way back when…in the 1960s and earlier than that comedians used to perform before jazz musicians. It was somewhat of a jazz tradition. Then the band started…
Big Fat Hen was the first selection, a song from “The Magic Hour.” Top Professor E. Lewis muted the piano strings, set the stage for the strutting Hen, Wynton himself. An animal escaped from Wynton’s horn clucking (do Hens cluck?). I particularly liked Mr. Marsalis’s solo because of its bluesy emphasis. Sometimes the chromaticism and blowing obscures the simple phrases. This solo was as crisp as a new dollar bill.
E. Lewis used a “dat-dat” rhythm in the beginning part of his solo, which led into a small drum solo. Did someone turn down the stereo volume? I thought the man working the mixer had fallen on the volume button, but, no, the quintent was playing really, really, softly.
“You and Me” another song from the new CD saw Carlos the bassist take out the bow. He played much of the song arco. The song reminded me of walking down Rue de Rivoli, one of the arteries of Paris. Wynton’s Harmon, the arco, and light drumming were perfect for a chocoloate crepe. E. Lewis’s solo started slowly but took a turn for the dizzying. Flight of the Bumble Bee it was not. This bee was way cooler. Much more Buzzzzz. Flight of the Top Professor
The audience was confused in the beginning of the concert: “Should we clap for the soloists?” The drip-drop of audience approval had to usher in the tsunami of applause that followed each performance. On Carolo’s arco solo, he used double stops (playing 2 notes at the same time). The song altogether provided for a bouncey feeling, double dribbling throughout the entire composition.
On “Skipping,” E. Lewis’s motion shifted from bobbing up and down to a lateral side-to-side movement. Swaying, almost like Ray Charles, it was fitting that the next song was to honor the late great performer.
Wynton explained the significance of a jazz funeral. “I played my first one when I was 9. I thought I was too hip for it. “ He continued, “Young people always think older folks aren’t hip…If they’re old, too bad.” He said, “I thought the jazz funeral music was too corny, Uncle Tomish, honky.” But Wynton later realized the jazz funeral was a jazz tradition just like the jazz jam session. The jam session, said Ralph Ellison, is jazz’s academy.
Wynton dedicated the two parts of the hymn to Elvin Jones and Ray Charles. (Wynton performed at Ray Charles’s funeral today in Los Angeles). He told a funny story about Ray Charles at the performance: “When he counted the tempo, I thought he was joking. Nobody can play that slow and still feel good…except him.” Marsalis called the jazz funeral song as a “New Orleans Function.” The function is composed of two parts: 1 fast, 1 slow. The first was “On a hill far away.” The second, “Down by the riverside.”
“Mmmmmmmm,” said the audience when the audience when the heard the song names. It was Campbell Hall after all. Had they tried Campbell’s Soup?
The first movement had Ali whose drum ushered the processional to its recognizable state. The tamborine and bass drum sounded like we were close to the French Quarter. The second movement made me think, “Where is the gong?” E. Lewis started the second song by a gong like hit on the bass part of the piano. BAM! And then he did it again. BAM! BAM!
I haven’t seen so many Brooks Brothers shirts dancing in an audience before. The man with the small balding spot broke out the “air saxophone.” I smiled.
E. Lewis’s solo should have been a track on Wynton’s CD called “Welcome to the Saloon.” Pull up a chair, stomp your foot and clap along too!
E.Lewis’s audience reaction made the audience clap (you know that elevated clap where people hold their hands in the air?). It wasn’t a drip drop standing ovation. People got up as if they were on a mission to applaud and thank. Everyone was on their feet, except for me (who was scribbling a note to myself).