SHOW OF THE WEEK: Saxophonist Charles Lloyd, the jazz legend in our zip code, turned 70 in March, and is bringing sagacity and vibrancy to his current work life. An impressive new album, Rabo de Nube (ECM), documents one of Lloyd’s best bands yet, with pianist (and fascinating artist in his own right) Jason Moran joining the bold fold. See what the fuss is about at the Lobero on Sunday.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF COLUMNAR TIME: In the strange subcultural suburb (or is it underground?) of newspaper columns, a void has been filled, as incisive scoopster Aly Comingore fills the long-empty “Positively State Street” spot. Howdy, neighbor! It is great to see you over the hedges and across the pages.
This seems a ripe time for historical housekeeping. The process involves some airing of well-meaning false pretenses. True confession: 20 years ago, I was the “Lee” of original State St. Column pseudonym “Edwin Lee,” along with Russ Edwin Spencer. Back then, we were much closer to the release of Bob Dylan’s classic ’60s song “Positively 4th Street.” Other State St. columnists of note hid behind the comfy cloak of anonymity, including: the infamous and hilarious Andrew Broomhead-actually the singer in an orchidaceous parody-punking band rhyming with Herf Nerder. Okay, it was Parry Gripp, who gave up his high-paying columnist gig to tour the world. Guitarist and hepcat-about-town Duncan Wright assumed the moniker the Dunk Machine. Eloquent wordsmith Eugene Pidgeon-under my brief watch as Independent arts editor-originally lobbied for using the pseudonym Johnson City. But it didn’t fly in the editorial meeting. Probably for the public good, in retrospect.
BUBBLY BOWLING: Good news/bad news scenarios came in waves during Michael Buble‘s recent two-night stand at the Bowl. The first good news is that Buble, the Canadian whose shameless post-Sinatra vibe caught on like wildfire five years ago, is a very good singer, helping to keep alive the Great American Songbook with a cross-generational fan base. The bad news: His own contemporary pop is lame and shamelessly Lite. He hires fine jazz musicians and makes the big band sound viable, but then reins them in and keeps the actual jazz content at a minimum, for fear of his fans’ jazz-phobic element.
Venue-wise, we had the scary thought that this show might be our fleeting brush with jazz culture all season. The Bowl, for all of its remarkable attributes, still suffers from an egregious lack of “real music” on its pop-monopolized calendar. Large chunks of Santa Barbarans are under-served, denied access to this great community resource. But that’s another, nagging story.
At one point in his show, Buble hopped into the crowd to interact, as trombonist Nick Vayenas played a cool solo, to a distracted crowd. It was reminiscent of the Arlington show by Sting several years ago, when his fine keyboardist Jason Rebello took a beautiful solo, but during the Stingster’s beefcake moment, as here he literally shook his booty stage front, apparently oblivious to his band member’s seance with the muse. That’s show biz.
Another local concert memory arose at the Buble show, during a routine when the leader left the stage in a huff, and Vayenas had a shticky moment at the microphone. When Dizzy Gillespie played the Lobero many years ago, noted left-leaning saxist Sam Rivers was in the band; it felt incongruous when Rivers fell in with the entertain-the-troops comedy bits Dizzy liked to incorporate into a show.
No shtick can be found on Vayenas’s intriguing new solo album, Synesthesia (World Culture Music). Vayenas ventures on some very cool electro-acoustic explorations, appealing to those with a taste for groove in their jazz, without stooping to the bane of the smooth. Musicians include pianist Aaron Parks and drummer Kendrick Scott, who, like Vayenas, are strong and forward-thinking young jazz musicians keeping jazz alive and evolving, even if they have to take day jobs like the Buble band to pay the bills