Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington - Samueli Theater - 10/26/13

Categories: all that jazz

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SJ O'Connell
Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington
Samueli Theater
10/26/13

"Women in jazz." What a sadly overused phrase.

The fact that three African American women from multiple generations playing jazz for a full house is considered a novelty is incredibly unfortunate. Three African American men from multiple generations playing jazz for a full house is simply referred to as tradition. But the best-rounded artists from any discipline access all gender roles. A great jazz musician can't have physicality and no sensitivity. A great jazz musician has to be able to play a ballad as well as a burner. When jazz is at its best, gender cannot be detected.

Pianist Geri Allen, bassist Esperanza Spalding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington all draw from a deep well of technique and emotional dexterity. Although it took a little while, last Saturday, before a sold out crowd at the Samueli Theater, that trio showed a wide emotional range and the ability to demolish any jazz band working today regardless of gender, race, height or hairstyle.

At the start, Spalding's bass was muddy and her bandmates spent a lot of the first tune gesturing at the fourth member of the band: the soundman. A strange sight considering they had already played two sets the day before through the same soundboard. Allen was spacious in melody and solo, but never quite tied any phrases or exhibited much enthusiasm during the first few tunes. Carrington pushed occasionally but rarely did all three members ever appear to break a sweat.

It was Spalding's arrangement of Wayne Shorter's "Virgo" halfway through the set that seemed to wake the band from their slumber. Following a sparse bass solo, Spalding transformed the sound of her instrument into an oversized thumb piano, eliciting a simplistic groove from her repeating phrases. Gradually, Allen took over the phrases, mimicking Spalding's tone and texture. Carrington drove the trio with little more than her hi-hat.

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