By Bill Barton
Wednesday night’s Andrew D’Angelo Benefit Concert at Seattle’s Chapel Performance Space drew a full-house, standing room only crowd. That’s good news indeed for Andrew and his family and a credit to the Seattle jazz community. It is indeed a community in the true sense of the word.
After being introduced by Earshot Jazz Executive Director John Gilbreath, Andrew’s brother Tom shared some powerful and personal thanks and noted that “Jazz is Love” could serve as a motto for this concert. Indeed it did.
The event was organized by Cuong Vu along with Earshot and was an outpouring of love and support from the musicians and the audience.
Cuong Vu opened seated in front of his console of electronics, trumpet in right hand, joined by Greg Sinibaldi on electronic wind instrument and Chris Icasiano from the Speak Quartet on drums. Their segment was a beautifully textured, surging electronic smorgasbord of sounds, with Sinibaldi often laying down the bass lines, at other times functioning somewhat like a pianist or keyboardist might. Vu layered multiple trumpet parts via looping in his customarily creative fashion.
Robin Holcomb at the piano provided a distinct contrast in her solo song, managing to be both pensive and harmonically adventurous in the opening instrumental portion and singing in her distinctive voice as the piece progressed. Wayne Horvitz then joined her on stage and their duet with Horvitz at the piano was quite lovely. Horvitz departed and guitarist Bill Frisell accompanied her next. This was a heartbreakingly deep and profoundly moving, country-tinged collaboration. She reminded me of what Loretta Lynn and Sheila Jordan have in common: soul unrelated to genre pigeonholes.
There were many highlights in this first set, including Cuong Vu’s decidedly more “straight-ahead” (all acoustic) playing with the Speak Quartet, an immensely talented and obviously precocious group of his University of Washington students, with Icasiano on drums, Andrew Swanson on tenor saxophone, pianist Aaron Otheim and electric bass guitarist Luke Bergman.
The second set began with a one-in-lifetime Seattle all-star band: Vu, Frisell, Eyvind Kang on violin and Horvitz at the piano in a lengthy free improv piece that was particularly notable for Horvitz’s inside-the-piano work and how it meshed with Kang’s pizzicato. Then Kang and Frisell played two marvelous duets. The first sounded a little like 2/5 of the Hot of Club of France time-warped 70 years into the future. It swung in a subtle but extremely infectious manner: gorgeous stuff! The second was a bit more abstract yet still had a potent pulse. These guys are world-class improvisers, that is abundantly obvious, and they exhibited uncanny communication and synchronicity. Then Frisell played two solo guitar pieces. The first one sounded like “Blue Monk,” although it was taken through a wide variety of twists and turns, and occasionally seemed to almost morph into other Monk tunes. And the second, which appeared to be one of Frisell’s own compositions although the title was not announced, showcased the liquid tone and thoughtful textures of his ECM days.
The concert closed with a romping segment from the Speak Quartet, just as “Andrew would have wanted it” as Vu pointed out. The future is now. Audience support for young musicians is critical to the continued vibrancy of the local scene. Vu mentioned that so many great young musicians come up in the Seattle area, but then they leave. We need to provide places to play and people to listen.