Concert Review 1 for Fly

Since migrating onto my own domain, I have decided to combine all 3 of my blogs into a single one split up by categories. The vast majority of my posts are still personal topics, but posts that would’ve once gone to my fiction or nonfiction blog are going to show up here, now. Like this one.

One of the things I’ve been doing in my nonfiction blog is posting essays, reports, and write-ups for the courses I’m taking. Well-aware that most of it is no interest to most people, this at least gives me the comfort that what I do isn’t doomed to an inevitable disk crash or deletion without having ever been available for someone other than my instructor to read.

So here’s one. I’m taking a jazz history class right now, and part of the work is going to a couple jazz performances and writing up one-page reports. This one was written from a performance I went to just over a week ago.

Concert Review 1 for Fly

Last night, I went to Yoshi’s to see Fly perform. They’re jazz trio comprising Mark Turner on tenor and soprano sax, Jeff Ballard on drums, and Larry Grenadier on bass. I had seen them perform this past summer with Joshua Redman here at Stanford, and that time, it was quite beyond me, and I didn’t enjoy it that much. Fortunately, the music didn’t seem as “out there” this time.
The smaller room at Yoshi’s was definitely the right feel for the trio. Most of the songs focused mostly on sax, usually somewhat in conversation with either the bass or the drums. Unlike the bebop songs we’ve been listening to, almost all of the songs were only loosely based around a melody, and usually actually around something else. For example, one song started with a bass intro, which turned into an 8-beat phrase he repeated through the rest of the song. While I could hear the solo fall into the same chords as the phrase from the bass, the sax and drums were largely just playing around that sound. In another, perhaps the only unity I could find was that the sax was soloing around some minor scale that I’m not familiar enough with to identify.
I was impressed by the wide range of the sax player. He sound was clear whether playing through a slow, lyrical part, or a fast run up and down the range. What distinguished his playing from what we’ve been listening to in class was the focus. Charlie Parker was playing around the chords and creating a frantic, constant sound that feels like it’s driving towards something. Mark Turner would also have fast licks up and down a scale, but each of these seemed like a distinct musical thought. Instead of playing straight through each of his solos, he would seem to have an inspiration, play for a couple bars, then stop again. And when he was playing against the bass, I did have a lot of difficulty following the song as there wasn’t a piano comping in the background.
Only one piece had a very clear structure to me. In the second to last song, the sax had an 12-beat riff that he repeated several times at the beginning, end, and in a couple places in-between. Unlike the mostly dissonant sounds so far, I found myself less often surprised through this piece. The performers seemed no more or less comfortable playing in this style than anything else more far out they had played, but as a listener, it was a lot more comforting to return to a form that I could follow. The piece seemed the closest to the bebop music we were listening to: I found the head easily enough, and each of the performers traded the solo around. The tenor solo was the more blistering pace I had heard in class, and with the bass behind it, I could hear parts of the head in what he was playing.
Although each song had some theme, whether a scale, a riff, or a rock beat from the drums, I found myself thinking to try to put the music together. By the end, though, my foot was tapping, and I felt myself enjoying it, even if I didn’t understand all of the music. The style was certainly very modern, and I think I’m just going to need to listen to it to learn to appreciate it. In comparison to when I heard them this past summer, I enjoyed it much more, and I think that’s because I know more about the music. And I’m glad to know that I’ll continue to enjoy the music more and more as I come to understand it better.

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