Monday, June 20, 2005

Trapped on stage.

Carnegie Hall, Part 2. Although Wayne Shorter was clearly the headline act, he went first for some unknown reason. BIG MISTAKE. I have much respect for Dave Holland - his album Conference of the Birds is one of my all-time faves - but I wasn't optimistic that his quintet could match the transcendent performance by Shorter. Even given my diminished expectations, I was surprised by how shoddy and uncreative they were. Holland acted as if he were in a dinner club, introducing the band on three separate occasions and pointing out the soloists after every tune. "And this next selection we're pleased to perform for you good people..."

The hackneyed presentation was mirrored by the cliched approach to the music. Every tune unfolded the same way: The entire band plays the head, two people play extended solos, and then the band returns to play the head again. Start all over with different people taking the solos this time. You know, for variety. It was completely predictably, robbing the songs of all excitement and drama. No wonder kids think jazz is a moribund artform.

The players themselves were talented and had a few decent moments, but they were clearly bored with the material and each other. When one person soloed, the others in the front line (sax, trombone, vibes) would walk all the way over to the wings until that solo was finished. They mostly seemed to be checking out the audience and staring at the ceiling. The most memorable moment of the set occurred when the trombonist walked over to the stage door, eager to leave during the saxophonist's long solo. He kept tugging at the door but it was locked - trapped on stage! It was as if the audience had stumbled into a scene from an existentialist drama. Unable to leave this gaffe alone, the trombonist then walked across the entire stage - behind the band - and went to talk to the person operating the sound board on the other side. They talked in hushed tones and the sound man picked up a phone. Then the trombonist walked all the way across the stage AGAIN and stood waiting by the stage door, tappig his foot impatiently for almost two minutes until the door opened and he vanished inside. Did he forget something? Maybe his plunger or mute? But no, the trombonist reappeared about five minutes later with no new equipment and casually strode up to the front of the stage to play the final unison section with the rest of the band. He was marginally less bored during his own solo in the next tune, hamming it up at the end to juice the applause. Even my Dad was rolling his eyes at this point. We left early.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe he had to go to the bathroom?

4:51 PM  

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