Monday, August 29, 2011
Bull City Leans Forward for Shana Tucker, Peter Lamb @ Casbah (8/20 Review)
forward-leaning jazz: Peter Lamb & The Wolves
If you were at Casbah on August 20th, you know that Shana Tucker's double bill with Peter Lamb and The Wolves was remarkable. People came to this show with a certain hunger for a serious listening experience, and they got it: two of the Triangle's most innovative acoustic jazz groups, together in one night for the first time ever.
chambersoul: Shana Tucker Quartet
The chambersoul songstress and her cello opened, backed by Stephen Coffman (drumset), Mark Wells (piano) and Darion Alexander (acoustic bass). Shana's banter between songs, rambling, funny, and animated, brought the receptive crowd in even closer. It was a pretty ravishing set; highlights included Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," and Bill Withers' "Who Is (S)he and what Is (S)he To You?" both of which featured strong interplay (musical and satirical) with her bass player.
She burned down the house, at least among all the ladies present, with a new original tune about a certain type of annoying phone call and/or text message (it may not have an official title yet, but she jokingly called it "The Booty Call Song"). Wolves Peter Lamb (sax) and Al Strong (trumpet/flugel) came out early to solo on "Bye Bye Blackbird" while Shana sang. Here's one of Shana's originals from her album Shine, a song called "November" that hits me every time:
After an intermission, Peter, Al, Mark and Stephen returned, joined by George Knott (double bass/bass saxophone) and guest Brevan Hampden (congas), to play The Wolves' set. I've never heard the horns sound better, in fact sound overall at Casbah (Sound by Evan) was peachy. If one had a request, for the artists' sake as well as the audience, it would be the installation of central A/C in this important venue. Near the stage, and especially on it, the heat from lights, etc. made for trying conditions. That said, nothing was going to stop this from being a glorious, expansive night of music. Here's "Mona Lisa," veritably busting with incredible solos by Mark Wells on piano, Peter Lamb on sax, and Al Strong with the melody on flugelhorn:
The Wolves did their usual powerranger-morphing through Astor Piazzola, Ray Charles, Nat Cole, et al. A lot of older, jazz/pop standards have cryptic Latin cover versions, or vice versa, and sitting at the bar, one popped out at me that night that, for some reason, I had never noticed before: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "Veinte Años," the latter best known in a version by the Buena Vista Social Club. The former is credited to songwriters Harry Warren/Al Dubin, the latter to Maria Teresa Vera.
I'm not sure who deserves the first credit, and they differ enough past the distinctive opening bars to probably legally qualify as different songs. But my instincts lean toward Maria Teresa Vera, who was born in 1895, and wrote "Veinte Años" as a habanera (the Cuban style of contradanza, whence tango got its bassline). Nat King Cole did "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" with a Latin percussionist (Jack Costanzo), and the English lyrics not only treat a similar theme (broken dreams/long lost loves), but also mention an "old Cathedral town," which seems like an allusion to Latin America.
In any case, the really important question is this: Has anyone merged these songs? How breathtaking would that be? Wolves, you have your mission...
Danke schön, in the meantime, for restyling my brain to take in this German drinking song, "Du, Du Liegst Mir Im Herzen," sung by with Mark Wells as if he were Jeff Buckley at an Oktoberfest. This was a juicy encore:
If you missed it, you missed it.
Peter Lamb and The Wolves and Shana Tucker both have new albums; listen and learn more at their websites.