2/20/09: Terence Blanchard @ The Village Vanguard (29/100)

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I’ve been listening to jazz non-stop for the last two days. Walking to work. All day at work. Walking home from work. Jazz, jazz and more jazz. It’s been a great pallete cleanser of all the music I’ve been seeing (mainly indie rock). And, there’s just something that feels right about walking around New York City listening to jazz. Makes you feel like you’re in a movie. I had a very limited supply of jazz, so my friend Eric hooked me up with over 2 gigs worth, and then another friend, Alon, threw in 12 more gigs. Thanks guys, I think I’m good for a while.

Admittedly though, it’s a pretty foreign language to me. I knew I liked Coltrane and Miles, but I not much else. I did know that I wanted to see a show at the legendary Village Vanguard at some point during this project. So I asked my co-worker Yves, jazz aficionado, to pick out a few shows worth checking out at the Vanguard. He obliged, threw some my way, and I picked Terence Blanchard. My friend Alan said he’d been dying to go see something good at the Vanguard, too. So he and his wife Laura joined me for a Friday evening of steak, whiskey and jazz. Well ok, they took part in 2 out of 3 since they’re Mormon.Which brings up something I learned tonight.

If you have the chance, go to the Vanguard with Mormons. Why? Because a $10 drink ticket is included in the cost of entry. And no one can drink $10 worth of soda, so you get an extra cocktail. (Thanks guys)

We got to the Vanguard in time to grab a table a few feet away from the stage. Sadly, Alan had to strain to see the stage most of the night, after sitting next to a big guy who wouldn’t move his big melon out of the way. Oh, and my seat did have a nail sticking out of it if you pressed down hard enough, but whatever. This was the place of legends, and if I’m supposed to snag my jeans on a nail in the name of jazz, then that’s just how it’s gonna be tonight.

The Vanguard looks exactly how I imagined it would. Cavernous, unassuming and intimate. It’s not hard to imagine what it must’ve been like when Evans and Coltrane held court here. Save from the absence of a thick coat of smoke in the air, I don’t see it looking much different than it did tonight. 

The house lights went off, stage lights came on, Terence and his band hit the stage and immediately launched into “Transform” from his record Bounce. This song (and pretty much every song after that) went on for 15-20 minutes, which was great. It gave them room to breath and grow – and for each member of the band to put their stamp on the song.

Like I said before, jazz is literally another language to me. I mean, I play guitar and other instruments, and I’ve been in bands. So I’m familiar with chord and song progressions. But I mostly listen to and play rock music. Jazz is something so completely different.

Watching these guys play, it seems so effortless, yet what they’re playing is so complex. They’re each in their own world, doing their own thing, but it comes together as one piece. It literally oozes out of them as they all stand there, eyes closed, and it just flows. Pretty amazing not just to listen to, but also to watch.  

After the second song, Terence addressed the crowd and introduced the band. They’re all a fairly young, yet accomplished, group of musicians. The pianist was Cuban, bass player from Philly, drummer and sax players are both from Houston (Terence announced it was officially okay to like Texas again, after the last 8 year hiatus), and Terence is from New Orleans. They played another track from Bounce titled ”Fred Brown,” followed by a new track written by the bass player, tentatively titled ”TB song #6.” Terence made sure to tell us to “cheer for it, or it might not make the record.” And that wasn’t a problem because for me, it might’ve been the best song of the night. And that was that.

The band left the stage and the crowd cleared out to make way for the 11pm set. On the way out, I noticed the sax player and pianist made their way to hang near the bar. I approached them and told the sax player about my 100 bands project. He was nice and said he’d check it out. I grabbed my coat, and made my way back out of the cavernous jazz underground.

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6 Responses to “2/20/09: Terence Blanchard @ The Village Vanguard (29/100)”

  1. [...] to the Village Vanguard with Mormons (or people who don’t drink): I talked about this in my Terence Blanchard entry. But again, this is a good idea because a $10 drink ticket is part of the price of admission. So if [...]

  2. hey,
    i’m the sax player from terence’s band. nice blog…glad you enjoyed the set. good luck with the rest of the project.

  3. Thanks for allowing us to tag along, Nick. I’m glad we could “donate” to the project. Good review of the show.

  4. thanks man, and good luck to you playing w/terence. you guys sounded great.

  5. And thank you Laura. Had a great time. You guys can tag along whenever you’d like. Take care.

  6. [...] are great bands, and then there are great “shows” Plus, it’s hard to compare Terence Blanchard to Lambchop, or the Rural Alberta Advantage to The Answer. They all have different things going [...]

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