It took until midway through the first tune for me to realize they were playing “All of You”. After all, the 11PM set on Wednesday night at the Village Vanguard started with a drum solo followed by dialogues between bass/drums, bass/piano. The tune unfolded slowly revealing itself as fragments of melodies were thrown back and forth, slowly and carefully developed by the three of them. Geri Allen, Esperanza Spalding and Terri Lyne Carrington are at the top of their game – virtuosic, musical and creative. “No offense to you”, Spalding said with a conspiratorial grin to the audience, “we’re just excited to be playing together”. And playing together is exactly what they did. Solos, dialogues, trios, textural variations, rhythmic displacements and curve balls made each composition into a journey of discovery. It was gorgeous chamber music with all three supporting, listening, reacting, and surprising each other. They even shared the microphone duties introducing tunes and each other. We were eavesdropping on an exciting creative project and mutual admiration witnessing them “fly by the seat of our pants”, as Carrington said later in the evening.
A couple of highlights:
Spalding sang one tune the entire set – the beautiful “Unconditional Love” written by Geri Allen, featured on Terri Lyne’s Grammy nominated (Feb 2012) The Mozaic Project CD (which features Allen, Spalding and many other fantastic female musicians.) Here is the excerpt from the CD:
The show closer, Charlie Parker’s “Au Leu Cha” at breakneck speed began with a fast descending line played by bass and piano. Allen managed to keep this upbeat ostinato going as she navigated through the melody creating some crazy ear-bending counterpoint. It was breathtaking.
Here they are at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in 2007: