In a way I wish I started this blog much earlier, about 10 years ago. I first saw Mike Stern live in May 2002 at the Mean Fiddler, which currently doesn’t even exist, but over the years I’ve drawn inspiration from such shows that I’m only now able to share.
This time I saw the Mike Stern/Bill Evans band on Tuesday and then Thursday during their residency at Ronnie Scott’s in London. Here’s a short clip of them playing ‘Chromazone’:
Stern and Evans of course share a glorious musical past that saw them play with Miles Davis in the early 80s among other things. Interesting and stimulating for the general listener, occasions like these are even more valuable for aspiring players, myself included – apart from enjoying a gig of the highest profile, it is also a chance to get closely acquainted with some of the most original pioneers of jazz history.
Having seen Stern on numerous occasions, I can only say he’s getting better and better as years go by – natural, fluid and consistently positive, his live shows are a generous source of inspiration and positive energy.
The band he brought to London on this occasion can only be described as truly phenomenal: the ever-pulsating Dave Weckl and astonishingly impressive Tom Kennedy ensured Stern’s tour with Bill Evans will resonate around the jazz scene for a long time, or at least until they are next around!
Last weekend I did something I hadn’t done for a long time – went to see the same artist for 2 nights in a row at Ronnie Scott’s, and seeing the John Scofield organic trio turned out to be a very inspired (and inspiring) decision!
The last time that happened was when I could still get into Ronnie’s on a student discount – yes, very long time ago! I remember watching Mike Stern for 5 nights in a row, 2 sets per night, and that king of jazz marathons a great deal.
Overall, a 5 star jazz occasion, not least because of the band on the night – Greg Hutchinson on drums and Larry Goldings on Hammond B3 organ really drove Scofield’s improvisations into fluid and exciting territories.
The repertoire included a selection of compositions from Scofield’s earlier albums, with ‘Still Warm’ bringing a slightly nostalgic vibe among the listeners that packed Ronnie’s on both days. More recent tracks followed, combined with a healthy dose of jazz standards.
As a guitarist, I guess my perception of the 2 shows will always be instrument-specific, but everyone in the audience seemed to enjoy the grooving trio. Guitarists took away inspiration for playing and practising, the rest of the audience were simply treated to a truly special jazz occasion, similar to John McLaughlin’s appearance a few years ago.
2013 has started lively with a smoking performance from the Larry Goldings trio – with Peter Bernstein on guitar and Bill Stewart on drums. Ronnie Scott’s was grooving like a spaceship and for those interested Goldings with return to Ronnie’s on Sunday the 3rd of March, this time to play with the John Scofield trio.
I have seen John Scofield playing live many times, but never at Ronnie Scott’s – this place tends to bring out the best in musicians so can’t afford to miss the date. Another notable presence at the jazz club in February in Billy Cobham, who is coming for a whole week residency in central London. As a general observation, in recent times Ronnie’s has become a jazz centre in London – in the past Jazz Cafe, Mean Fiddler and others used to complement the picture with a healthy number of jazz occasions, whereas now it seems other venues have chosen a more commercial path.
Shortly afterwards, the London Famenco show at Saddler’s Wells will introduce a different dimension to my search for inspiration – a few weeks of explosive Flamenco, crowned with Tomatito’s appearance on the 20th in March should speed up the arrival of spring. Until then, some memories from last year’s jazz festival:
Lots of good drumming, grooving and riffing in this John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension video – looking forward to some more in 2013!