When night fell on the Festival Saturday night, the mood changed: The lights of the booths and venues brought everyone into sharper focus while the fog softly hugged the grounds.
A good weather day and a not too chilly night blessed the Saturday event and prepared the way for the more cerebral straightahead piano trio of Geri Allen.
The set in the Arena began with Allen in a slightly somber and thoughtful solo. As the sounds of her music seeped over the grounds, the chatty bonhomie of the Festivalgoers seemed to quieten some, perhaps the conversations deepened.
The long lines for food provided another friendly context for conversation; while coffee attracted a new audience.
The arena audience was thinner in the cold, but slowly slowly the seats filled and made ready for the appearance of Allen’s base player, Kenny Davis and drummer Kassa Overall, masterful, both. And as an homage to Sammy Davis Jr., Maurice Chestnut provided another instrument, the percussion of his tap dancing in an original composition commissioned by the 2011 MJF called “The Dazzler.” The pieces including “Lover Man” performed with tap as part of the instrumentation was as exhilarating to watch as to hear.
Allen is one of the steadiest of jazz artists, consistently creating intelligent and accessible music, capable of torrents of technical brilliance, she tends to be spare, leaving a lot of room for the notes to ring and influence each other, an artist whose work never gets stale.
Written by KUSP’s Maureen Davidson