Esperanza Spalding 10/9 @ the Carolina Theatre: Esperanza Spalding has more talent & energy than most musicians, & all of it was on display that night, perhaps even too much. E.g., she does a great job on "Wild Is The Wind", & that night she produced a hurricane. She quieted down for her encore, first soloing on bass to something that sounded William Blake-ish (about a bee), & then scat dueting with her drummer, who used his brushes for the only time in the performance. There was something for everyone but not everything for everyone. I'd still go see her the next time around.
Duck Jazz Festival 10/12: No, it wasn't local, except that the John Brown Quartet opened at 11am, giving an hour long "sermon" that, with the ecstatic alto sax of Brian Miller, gave nourishment to our souls. Even better was my first live performance by Rene Marie. She is sassy & ever so talented, & everyone in this area should go see her with the NC Jazz Repertory Orchestra 12/9 at UNC. She's worth traveling for too.
Eric Hirsh Quartet 10/17 at the Beyu: Now that this quartet has gotten regular gigs--primarily this monthly Beyu gig--they're more & more comfortable with their music. And, much of that is either written or arranged by Eric, that music sounding both familiar & new. For example, they opened with an homage to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, a new/old hard bop tune that only needed a trumpeter to play in sync with Aaron Hill's alto sax. Eric is also opening his Facebook page to suggestions for cover tunes, this night choosing Frank Loesser's "Inchworm" from the 1953 movie "Hans Christian Anderson". The last sticks with me because I remember seeing it at age 8 in a Broadway movie house & being enchanted with the story & music. And, Eric even knew the source of the music, one of the few people his age who make the effort to check out new/old things....I also want to add that Steve Coffman's drumming has gotten better & better the times I've gotten to see him over the last three years; he both adds percussive complexity to the music & stays within the tunes. That balance can be hard to achieve....The quartet will play at the 140 West Franklin Street plaza in Chapel Hill Friday 11/14 (probably at 6) & at the Beyu Friday 11/21. My recommendation is partly prompted by a Local Jazz Usual Suspect, who reported not being able to sleep after two sets of the quartet at the Beyu--because the music was so exciting.
Keith Ganz/Scott Sawyer Quartet 10/18 at Sharp Nine: Bassist Jason Foureman was smart enough to get these two together recently (& to accompany them in his fine way), & this was a great night of mellow straight-ahead jazz. They played standards plus one Sawyer tune & two Ganz tunes, & my favorite part was the magic--to me as a music layman--of trading & playing off mini-licks at breakneck speed in a couple of the tunes. Again, this is a group worth chasing down.
The local scene: I continue to be impressed by the solidity of our local straight-ahead jazz scene. It could use some locally-produced edge (also provided by UNC, Duke, & the Carolina Theatre), but that will come. It will come at least by April 2015 with the next Art of Cool Festival, providing both straight-ahead jazz & the edges that border on soul, funk, R&B, & hip-hop. Keep an eye open for that lineup in the next 2-3 months.