Live Music: The Pasadena Pops at the L.A. Arboretum in “Hooray For Hollywood”

August 18, 2014

By Don Heckman

Pasadena, CA.  The warm months of summer always bring a luscious banquet of musical events, much of it presented in colorful outdoor venues. One of the best has begun to emerge in the performances of the Pasadena Pops Orchestra under the baton of Michael Feinstein, amid the gorgeous greenery of the L.A. Arboretum.

And Saturday night’s performance, titled “Hooray For Hollywood,” was a perfect blend of all those elements, brought to their peak under the guidance of Feinstein, who matched his appealing singing and precise conducting with a scholarly knowledge of the rich and diversified music of Hollywood, past, present and future.

The Pasadena Pops at the L.A. Arboretum

The Pasadena Pops at the L.A. Arboretum

Add to that the line-up of appealing performers that Feinstein, with the aid and support of ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) also added to evening in an obvious quest to create an immensely enjoyable performance. Among the headliners: Debby Boone, Maureen McGovern, Kevin Earley, Alan Bergman, Paul Williams and much more.

The far-ranging tone of the performance began early, with Feinstein’s whimsical reading of (appropriately) “Hooray For Hollywood,” supplemented with some humorous new lyrics as well as Feinstein’s ever amusing sidebar comments.

“I wanted to grow up to be like Alan Ladd, and I did,” he noted, with a smile. (Although he did not look in Paul Williams’ direction when he said it.)

Michael Feinstein conducts the Pasadena Pops

The heart of the show, and the highlight of the vocal performances were energized by tunes from what might accurately be called The Great Hollywood Songbook. Consider the following:

Paul Williams singing “The Rainbow Connection,” a song he wrote for Kermit the Frog in Sesame Street.

Maureen McGovern‘s rich voice, soaring through a sequence of gripping interpretations, vividly bringing to life a medley of songs from”The Sound Of Music.”

Debby Boone‘s “You Light Up My Life,” a song classic from the film of the same name, still completely owned, in every musical manner, by Boone’s still-vibrant singing.

The talented young Kevin Early displaying his musical versatility with convincing versions of a pair of very different tunes: “The Way You Look Tonight” (from Swing Time) and “On The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe (from The Harvey Girls).”

And, perhaps best of all, Alan Bergman‘s stunning reading of “The Windmills of Your Mind,” from The Thomas Crown Affair, with lyrics by Bergman and his wife, Marilyn, music by Michel Legrand. I’ve heard Alan sing it many times, and been deeply moved by each performance.

The music of Hollywood is not just song, of course. Michael Feinstein’s “Hooray For Hollywood” \thoroughly explored that other area – the soundtracks that are essential to a film’s emotional flow. And with an orchestra as adept as the Pasadena Pops, the results could only be world class. As they were.

Among the numerous highlights, there were selections from such familiar film names as Johnny Green, Elmer Bernstein, the Sherman Brothers, Michael Giachino, Erich Korngold, and more:

- The overture to Mary Poppins. The Raintree County overture. Music from The Magnificent Seven. The Prologue to The Sound of Music. Themes from Silverado.(conducted by composer Bruce Broughten),l And the Overture to Funny Girl.

Call it an amazing evening of music, and fascinating glance at the role it plays in the creative workshops of Hollywood. And let me add a coda of thanks to Michael Feinstein, his gifted orchestra and line up of stars, all of whom provided one of the Summer of 2014’s most pleasant experiences.

While I’m at it, Feinstein and the Pasadena Pops, along with guest stars, return on Saturday, Sept. 6, for a show that promises to produce similar musical pleasures: “New York! New York!” I’d say don’t miss it. Especially if you’re an expatriate New Yorker.

 


Live Music: ZZ Top and Jeff Beck at the Greek Theatre

August 18, 2014

By Mike Finkelstein

Los Angeles, CA.  Cool is one of those qualities that, although hard to precisely define, we sure do recognize when we see it. On Wednesday night at the Greek Theatre, Jeff Beck and Billy Gibbons, two of the coolest guitar personalities to ever spank the plank, shared a double bill, and also found time to share the stage. These are two who have the cool  in their delivery and style. And as both approach 70 years old their continued prowess with their instruments is inspiring. For guitar enthusiasts this was must see live work and it satisfied mightily.

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck went onstage shortly after sundown in a black vest, a wrapped scarf, and the same haircut we have known him with for nearly 50 years. The silhouette is very familiar. For years from the seventies on, his bands have featured him playing with one talented keyboardist or another (Max Middleton and Jan Hammer are notable alums). On Wednesday, there were no keyboards, instead he had a second guitar player, a dynamic young female bassist and a monster drummer… and for more than half of his set he had ex-Wet Willie vocalist and long time collaborator, Jimmy Hall, singing a batch of his more bluesy, guitar-and-vocals oriented tunes.

Beck’s set began instrumentally with “Loaded,” and the band stretched out nicely over a cover of “You Know You Know,” by the Mahavishnu Orchestra.  Bassist Rhonda Smith in particular, shined on this,serving up a contrasting mix of slapping and undulating bends.

Lately, no Jeff Beck show is without his instrumental version of the Beatles’ “A Day In The Life.” On Wednesday that tune was classic JB, with all the dynamics and nuance he is famous for injecting into his interpretations.  Much has been written over the years about his style and he truly stands alone in that nobody else does what he does and if they try to, we know where they got the ideas. It is his multitasking right hand that sets him apart. That right hand often does two or three things at once.  Whether he is tapping the strings, delicately nudging the vibrato arm, working the volume knob, or just ripping open a power chord it all takes a beautiful form. He hangs his hat on controlling chaos in his sound. It blows like a tornado and then stops and pivots on a dime.

Jimmy Hall

Jimmy Hall

Halfway through the set, Hall came onstage and they reached way back to the Truth album for “Morning Dew.” It’s a powerful song, whether sung by Rod Stewart (on Truth) or by Hall this time. And it’s a great example of how much more than the sum of the parts a vocal line and guitar line can elevate to. They also continued on to cover Jimi Hendrix’ “Little Wing,” and Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”

But the direction of the evening was shown with last two selections of “Goin’ Down,” from Rough and Ready, and the British blues/rock staple, “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.” At the end of his set, his “Aw Shucks” grin and slouch said it all. But we would see Beck again, later in the evening.

ZZ Top came on next as the headliner, and put on a uniquely stylized rock ‘n’ roll show. The stage set had a distinctly automotive theme to it, from the red and green lights in the bass drums, to the truck smokestacks that supported the mike stands, and there were many projected slides of sparkplugs displayed like fine hors d’oeuvres.

One really can’t discuss ZZ Top without acknowledging the presence of the beards. Both bassist Dusty Hill and guitarist Billy Gibbons have beards down past their sternums and also wear black sunglasses, dark hats and similar but happily not identical black pants, coats and shoes. You could say they each look like a cross between Cousin It (Addam’s family) and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers…but can they ever play and dance. The way they carry themselves onstage is one of a kind. Together it’s magic, a comic combination of effortless, confident, and impressive. … and all of these are key strands of cool.

ZZ Top

ZZ Top

Both Gibbons and Hill are thinner than you might imagine, and light on their feet in a laid back way. Gibbons is pretty much gaunt, but he slides around stage with the same cool fluidity he exudes on guitar.  The two beards can still dance the choreographed steps they learned in the bars and roadhouses of Texas coming up through the ranks. Who knew the dancing and their style would get them noticed, big-time, on MTV in the 80’s? It does look cool, but it wouldn’t mean anything if it didn’t sound like ZZ Top.

For a three-piece band, ZZT puts out a lot of sound. They keep the riffs and the riff-support simple but it sounds tremendous. The bass and guitar are usually playing in unison to make the figure sound as big as possible. The drums were thunderous and on one of the toms there was a huge reverb trigger at work. But on top of it all is Billy Gibbons’ legendary guitar tone…and that’s what sets ZZ Top’s sound apart.

One has to hear Gibbons’ tone to appreciate it. On Wednesday he played a customized old gold top Les Paul. He often plays with a quarter or a peso instead of a guitar pick, and this enables him to put all sorts of overtones off the top of the string with the metal on metal contact. He also has his amps dialed in for huge but not overblown sustain, and very little dirt in his distortion. The end result is a tremendous, clean and bright, clear and soft, lead tone and a magnificently overdriven, but clean rhythm tone.

The band cruised through crowd favorites such as “Waitin’ for the Bus,” “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” “ Gimme All Your Lovin’,” and even covered Jimi Hendrix with an impressive rendition of “Foxy Lady.” But perhaps the most telling song was their cover of Muddy Waters’ “Catfish Blues.” There’s just something about the way ZZ Top plays blues that isn’t remotely like so many other bands that just rock the blues into a distorted and boring cliche. While they do turn it up, ZZ Top’s rhythm section takes a less is definitely more approach for the blues. And again, Gibbons’ guitar tone, just squeezing out the sparks and wheezes was phenomenal. They linked the elusive sparsely powerful intimacy of the old Chicago blues with the big oomph of power trio rock music…not so easy to do well.

ZZ Top’s encore was the big treat and the moment of anticipation- Jeff Beck and Billy Gibbons on the same stage.  Bring it on. It wasn’t so much a showdown as a chance for us to finally corral two of the more distinctive rock guitar stylists ever on one stage. Many guitar players who share a stage with Jeff Beck are in awe. Gibbons was simply playing with a peer, so there was no tension to break. Gibbons switched to a Fender Telecaster, so as not to overpower Beck’s Stratocaster.  They Played “La Grange,” and “Tush,” of course, but the coolest song had to be a cover of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons.” Between Gibbons’ low, murmuring growls on the vocal, it was a fine showcase of the two styles and in the end the winner was the audience.

Cool is one of those qualities we tend to associate with youth but it’s really quite remarkable to see older folks retain it and wear it so effortlessly. Jeff Beck and Billy Gibbons are still two of the cooler cats you’ll ever see nearing seventy years old and playing killer guitar.

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To read more reviews and posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.

 


Live Music: “Get On Up: A James Brown Celebration” at the Hollywood Bowl

August 15, 2014

By Don Heckman

Hollywood CA. The Hollywood Bowl‘s diverse set of Wednesday night programs – from jazz and pop to blues and soul – hit a peak this week with an entertaining tribute to the incomparable James Brown, timed, no doubt, to the recent release of the Brown biopic, Get On Up.

Given the “Godfather of Soul”’s vast catalog of hits, combined with the far-ranging stylistic genres present in that catalog, there was a lot from which to choose in the planning of the program. And the results were well worth the effort.

FH

Christian McBride

Christian McBride

It didn’t take long for the evening to get up to speed, perfectly managed by bassist and Brown fan Christian McBride. Starting with a slide show illustrating Brown highlights, the music, ornamented by a pair of busy dancers, switched quickly into “live” mode with a set by a 14 piece House Band featuring such members of the original Brown band as saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, trombonist Fred Wesley and drummer Clyde Stubblefield. And it was no surprise that the music was a characteristically hard-driving blend of funk and blues with a seasoning of jazz.

The balance of the evening was handled by four singers, performing with the sort of spirit and enthusiasm that could only be characterized by dedicated Brown disciples. Performances dedicated to artists who have passed away sometimes emerge as imitations without authenticity. But not with this group of singers, all talented in their own right, all thoroughly tapped into the Brown artistry.

Bettye LaVette

Bettye LaVette

Bettye LaVette has never quite received the accolades her soul-driven singing style deserves. But, at 68, she can still bring a song to life, as she did in her set, which peaked with a stunning interpretation of “It’s A Man’s World.” Captured by the intensity of her version, clearly inspired by Brown, one couldn’t help but hope to see LaVette again soon in a performance dedicated to her own dynamic interpretations.

Up next, singer Aloe Blacc charged on stage with Brown-like dynamism. And, at 35, with skills as an instrumentalist (trumpet) and complete ease in genres reaching from r&b to jazz and funk to hip hop, he brought his unique diversity and high spirits to a Brown program that began with “The Payback” and ended with “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag.”

Angelique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo

Benin’s Angelique Kidjo added another intriguing aspect to a richly colorful program. Describing the impact Brown’s music had upon her as a child growing up in Africa, she applied her irresistibly charismatic powers to “Say It Loud” and “I Feel Good.” Stalking the stage, she demanded more interaction with the crowd, dancing across the curved walkway in the garden section, bringing her listeners into her ecstatic calls for musical action. Kidjo has always been an incredibly kinetic performer, and – captivated by the Brown aura — she was even more exciting in her remarkable set.

D Angelo

D Angelo

The evening climaxed with yet another high voltage performance, this one by singer/keyboardist producer D’Angelo. Adding yet another musical slant to an evening overflowing with uniquely engaging efforts to honor James Brown, D’Angelo was joined onstage by actor Chad Boseman, who portrays Brown in the Get On Up biopic. Together they urged the crowd to join them in a spirited singalong version of “Soul Power” – an appropriate ending for a musical evening to remember.

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Full stage, McBride, LaVette and Kidjo photos by Faith Frenz.  D’Angelo photo courtesy of D’Angelo.

 

 


Live Jazz: Chick Corea and The Vigil at Catalina Bar & Grill

August 14, 2014

By Don Heckman

Hollywood, CA. There seems to be more and more good news for jazz lately at Catalina Bar & Grill. A couple of weeks ago it was a stunning performance by the Ron Carter Trio.

And this week offers another memorable set of performances with the arrival Tuesday night of Chick Corea and his superb new band, The Vigil. Add to that the good news that Chick and The Vigil will be performing at Catalina’s through Sunday.

Why is that important?

Chick Corea

Because every day this week at Catalina’s will provide a great evening of jazz.

Because Chick – who seems to put together one extraordinary musical partnership after another – has come up with yet another winner in The Vigil. The band, which includes saxophonist/woodwind player Tim Garland, bassist Carlitos Del Puerto. drummer Marcus Gilmore (who is Roy Haynes grandson), guitarist Charles Altura and percussionist Luisito Quintero played with an irresistible blend of musical synchronicity and improvisational fireworks.

Tuesday’s program included a pair of Chick’s pieces from The Vigil’s eponymously titled first CD: “Planet Chia” and “Royalty” (a dedication to drummer Roy Haynes). Underscoring the band’s versatility, Chick also included “Fingerprints,” which he said had been inspired by Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” the Van Heusen/Burke songbook classic, “It Could Happen To You.” and plenty of space for some dynamic drumming from Gilmore and Quintero.

The Vigil’s Tim Garland, Charles Altura, Carlitos Del Puerto and Luisito Quintero

Tim Garland

Tim Garland

I could easily spend the rest of this review describing the extraordinary soloing, and ensemble work, from each of the assemblage of gifted young artists. As always, Chick was a generous leader, allocating far-reaching solo opportunities to each of the players.

Suffice to say that they all took creative advantage of the space they were offered. And a few distinct events come to mind:

The versatile Garland shifted easily from tenor to soprano saxophone, flute and hand percussion. In addition, his bouyant, enthusiastic stage presence had a positive effect upon the musically familial attitude that was present throughout the set.

Charles Altura

Charles Altura

Guitarist Altura, playing many of the fast-moving, rhythmically complex lines that were at the heart of Chick’s pieces, did so with stunning accuracy as well as a body-moving sense of swing.

Bassist Del Puerto, seeming deeply invested in the music, also played the quick runs and resonant dark tones called for by Chick’s music with precision, adding richly inventive soloing, pizzicato and arco.

Marcus Gilmore

Marcus Gilmore

And, as I noted above, the percussion team of Gilmore and Quintero provided the powerful rhythmic overdrive and surging swing that kept the music vibrant and alive.

Best of all, there was the constant feeling, flowing from the stage, that this was a band that was enjoying every minute, and eager to pull their listeners into their creative enthusiasm. That doesn’t happen as often as it should at a lot of jazz events. But it did here, and Southland jazz fans are fortunate to have four more nights (Tonight through Sunday) to experience the remarkable music of Chick Corea and the Vigil at Catalina Bar & Grill.

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Photos by Faith Frenz.


Live Music and Humor: Jay Leonhart and Josh Nelson at Vitello’s

August 11, 2014

 By Don Heckman

Studio City, CA. What is there to say about a bassist who is a prime jazz player, sings, and writes his own hilariously whimsical songs?

A lot, actually, if his name is Jay Leonhart, who had a full house audience in stitches at Vitello’s Saturday night, aided by the brilliant support of pianist Josh Nelson.

Josh Nelson and Jay Leonhart

Josh Nelson and Jay Leonhart

But no description of what Leonhart did in his 1½ hour set can do full justice to the unique musical range of his performance – not surprising given a performance and recording resume that includes gigs with artists reaching from Tony Bennett to James Taylor and Marian McPartland to Bucky Pizzarelli and beyond.

Jay Leonhart

Jay Leonhart

He came on stage and immediately settled any L.A. doubts about whether a somewhat lesser-known New York bassist with a reputation as a Bob Dorough and Dave Frishberg-like instrumental humorist could cut it as a jazz player. Suffice to say he did so, from first tune to the last, even though one of his best-known songs is “It’s Impossible to Sing and Play the Bass.”

Despite that whimsical reservation, his songs are at the center of any Leonhart show.  And he offered a non-stop array of appealing goodies. Among the many highlights:

- “Bass Aboard A Plane” – describing a problem faced by all bassists.
– “Me and Lenny” – in which Leonhart, sitting in first class, unexpectedly finds Leonard Bernstein next to him on a flight from New York to Los Angeles.
– Add to that: a song about history’s first double bass; a song inspired by Ivan Lins during a trip to Brazil; a song about an invasion of aliens from Venus titled “They’re Coming To Get Me.”
– A song about “Life on the Road.”
– As well as “Double Cross,” written after Leonhart had read a Robert Ludlum spy thriller.
All were masterful blends of humor, often sardonic, with catchy melodies and colorful harmonic schemes.

Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson

Further displaying his versatility, Leonhart included his own versions of “Stay Cool” (directly after the Bernstein song, of course) and Eddie Harris” “Freedom Jazz Dance.”

I mentioned Josh Nelson’s “brilliant support” on piano. And it was all that and more. Leonhart’s charts were broadly conceived, with numerous interactive as well as paired passages between bass and piano. As well as many areas in which Nelson had to interact, start and stop with spontaneous cues between both players. And it all happened perfectly – a pair of gifted players operating on precisely the same wave length.

There’s a lot I could add.  But none of it would be as on target as Leonhart himself in action. And the thought that kept recurring as we headed home after the performance was “When will Jay be back in L.A. again?.” Let’s hope it’s soon.

Photos by Faith Frenz.

 

 


Live Jazz: Herbie Hancock, Gregory Porter and the Robert Glasper Experiment at the Hollywood Bowl

August 8, 2014

By Don Heckman

There was a strikingly diversified array of jazz at the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday night – a program signifying the L.A. Phil’s desire to present America’s improvisational music in its many varied manifestations, all of them intriguing in one way or another.

Appropriately the headline act was veteran pianist/composer Herbie Hancock, who has also been the Philharmonic’s Creative Chair for Jazz since 2010. In a career reaching back to the early ’60s, Hancock has demonstrated a creative versatility reaching across a complete range of musical expressiveness.

And he did so at the Bowl on Wednesday, as well.

Backed by bassist James Genus and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, Hancock offered a program of his originals – including such now-classics as “Maiden Voyage,” “Jessica” and “Speak Like a Child,” as well as “Footprints,” one of the best known works by his friend and frequent musical companion, Wayne Shorter. (Surprisingly, Shorter was a rare absentee from a Hancock performance.)

A trio program by Hancock, Genus and Colaiuta alone would have provided a memorable evening of jazz at its finest. But there was much more, in the form of a full orchestra and the arrangements (and conducting) of Vince Mendoza, whose orchestrating credits reach from Sting to Joni Mitchell.

Herbie Hancock with orchestra conducted by Vince Mendoza

The results were extraordinary, with the combination of Hancock’s arching melodies and lush harmonies with Mendoza’s masterful orchestrations recalling a much earlier musical partnership: the compelling Maurice Ravel orchestrations for Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with orchestrations by Maurice Ravel.

But what made this combination unique was the presence of Hancock himself at the keyboard, adding his ever-imaginative improvisations to the orchestra’s rich tapestry of sound. Swinging hard in some spots, adding gorgeous lyricism in others, verging occasionally into passages with distinctly classical touches, he brought his familiar songs vividly to life. (One couldn’t, however, resist the desire to have heard more of Hancock’s eclectic classics in this fascinating setting – classics such as “Canteloupe Isand,” “Watermelon Man” and the offbeat “Rockit.” But maybe next time.)

Gregory Porter

Gregory Porter

Singer Gregory Porter added a different touch to this musically diverse evening. Establishing himself as a major jazz vocal artist in a few short years, with a Grammy nomination for his first album, Water. in 2010, Porter has been gathering a dedicated audience ever since.

Not only is Porter blessed with a lush baritone voice, he also seems to have an intuitive gift for phrasing and a laid-back sense of swing. Add to that the fact that he is one of the jazz world’s few singer/songwriters. And, although most of the originals he sang were unfamiliar, some had the catchy hooks and repetitive choruses that help listeners stay in touch with a song. By the time he finished his brief set, strongly aided by the stunning alto saxophone work of Yosuke Sato, the reasons for Porter’s rapidly growing popularity had become eminently clear.

Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper

The remaining act on the list of performers in the program was pianist Robert Glasper and the group he calls his “Experiment.” The title alone underscores Glasper’s apparent desire to remain on the cutting edge, envelope stretching areas of contemporary jazz.

Some of Glasper’s pieces harkened back to the avant-garde free improvising of the ’60s, especially when saxophonist/vocorder player Casey Benjamin was playing alto saxophone. Scouring his instrument for every sound it could make, he reached from multi-phonics to screeching high harmonics, low honks and busy fingered flurries.

Glasper also tossed in varied linkages with contemporary pop, rock and hip-hop, most of it ending up as a busy smorgasbord of sound that did little to please one’s appetite for jazz in the traditional sense. But give Glasper credit for a desire to add more to the mainstream menu.

As I noted earlier, it was an evening of jazz in many different hues. And the Philharmonic should be praised for providing a broad palette of so many musical colors.

Herbie Hancock and Gregory Porter Photos by Faith Frenz.

 

 


Live Music: Warren Haynes and The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, in a Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration at Red Rocks Amphitheater

August 8, 2014

By Mike Finkelstein

Denver, Colorado.  Last Sunday night Warren Haynes and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra picked up where they left off a year ago in their collaborative tribute to the music and spirit of Jerry Garcia. Garcia has been dead and gone for 19 years now and this show happened to fall in the middle of Jerry Week…a week of remembrance and celebration of his musical legacy, tied to the August dates of his August 1 birth and August 9 death.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Remarkably, the older end of the Grateful Dead community is still there to rally and show up in large numbers for a tribal gathering like this. And the Red Rocks Amphitheater, for centuries, an actual sacred site for Native American tribal gatherings, is a perfect place for a labor of love gig like this.

The show was divided into two sets, the first starting at dusk in magnificent blue skies and the second under a perfect half moon.  Opening with a concise version of the GD’s usually ultra extended “Dark Star,” the ensemble next swung into “Uncle John’s Band,” a crowd pleasing opportunity to sing along and do the deadhead shuffle. By the time they got to “Shakedown Street,” the orchestra’s horn section supplied some serendipitous funk to the mix.

The orchestra is of course the wild card, the fresh element to all of these new readings of familiar songs. Mainly, the orchestra took familiar parts of the tunes and either magnified their background presence or took familiar lines and transformed them into something familiar but new with the multi-instrumental layering. “Here Comes Sunshine” got the symphonic makeover and between the harmonies of backup singers Alecia Chakur and Jasmine Muhammad, and the orchestral re-embellishment of the song’s melody, we had something very new to enjoy and sing along with on the song’s now tremendous chorus. The orchestra also pumped up the lunges, and the stops and starts of “Morning Dew,” a GD staple for many years. And similarly the prominent line in “Terrapin Station,” and “Birdsong.” A symphony orchestra does present the potential for a lot of oomph in the dynamics and it worked well for this program.

Warren Haynes and his players and singers with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra

Haynes himself has done a masterful job of staying true to the original live sound and feel of all the material, without simply recreating it. Guitar-wise, he has been given the keys to the family car by the Jerry Garcia estate … as he actually played Garcia’s mainstay guitar from the mid 70’s, the iconic Doug Irwin built, “The Wolf.” He also used a Mutron pedal to snare Garcia’s signature “auto-wah” ’70’s sound that coated each note in the wah tone. As less is often more, he didn’t overuse it, just put it out there for contrast.

Warren Haynes with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra

Warren Haynes with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra

Vocally, he evokes but doesn’t duplicate Garcia’s approach. The timbre of his voice sets him down close to Garcia’s voice but with enough distance to add his own nuances and still keep it sounding both new and familiar. And that’s a fine line worth approaching.  Compared to the rhythm sections of the Grateful Dead or even the Jerry Garcia Band, drummer Jeff Sipe and bassist Lincoln Schleifer played things close to the vest. Then again, they were playing with an orchestra. Throughout the show, the band delivered the orchestra to departure points where they or Haynes would seize on elements of each song. This worked well during “Bird Song,” as the orchestra and then the band, was riffing on Branford Marsalis’ classic horn lines from his guest appearance on a legendary 1990 version of the song.

A sweeter couple of songs than Sunday’s encore of “Ship of Fools,” and “Stella Blue,” one does not often find. “Ship of Fools,” is a gem of a tune, with an elegant mesh of chord structure, melody, and poignant lyrics. “Stella Blue,” is cut from the same melodically haunting cloth … and rumored to be Garcia’s favorite of his own songs.

After all of this, the crowd ventured home, grinning contently.

Photos by Mike Finkelstein.

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To read more reviews and posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


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