December 21, 2004
It was a given that bandleader Troy Davis wasn't gonna be the strongest link or focus in Tuesday night's concert at Snug Harbor. Terence Blanchard, one of the best trumpeters in the world and Davis' former boss, stood in for some hard bop, cool jazz, and ballads. Davis was smart to give up the limelight in exchange for the interest and a larger audience of those familiar with Blanchard. It was just disappointing and unfortunate that Davis was also the weakest link in his band. His note selection was appropriate, but his loud playing got in the way of the music and overshadowed his bandmates. Davis and his bandmates also didn't play with the passion of Blanchard. Some color got sucked out of the room every time Blanchard passed a solo onto a bandmember. This contrast could be because Blanchard was an extra-ordinarily animated player. If that's the case, then I wish everyone played like Blanchard. The rest of the band was bland. Maybe they were nervous or didn't have a strong enough grasp of the material to go off on it. They just seemed like they weren't taking too many chances. That they were happy as the status quo. Blanchard's level of confidence just made them look bad.
The band was actually very talented, but I guess anyone's gonna look inexperienced when put next to Blanchard. Pianist Jesse McBride played enjoyable progressions, but it was a little annoying he favored the fifth, sixth and seventh octaves. The worst part of Gershwin. A bit loungy. Saxophonist Derek Douget and Blanchard were synchronized when they began or ended a song playing together. Note for difficult note, it was a display of their professionalism.
The band started out the second set with an original Davis piece. It was the hardest swinger of the night, and it showed the enjoyable complications Davis was familiar with. A kick-ass number. Next, the band went into a more laid-back Wayne Shorter cover. The highlight of the night was the next song, a James Black cover. It was wonderful because it was subtle. Its pace seemed reserved and cool at first, but underneath it all it was rockin' with sixteenth notes. The band went on to a beautiful cover of a Antonio Carlos Joabim ballad, and then they called it a night with a Miles Davis tune.
So, back to Blanchard: crazy skills. The amount of notes he could fit in. His melodies were like waves. I thought of a polygraph needle moving. And the wonderful, inhuman tones he could blow out to accentuate. Very cool. Many people from the crowd approached him after the show and thanked him. Speaking of the crowd, the ground floor was full, and they were very appreciative.
It was nice to see Blanchard out and about.