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Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project - communicating at SF Jazz

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Monday February 23, 2015

From Jazz Police
By Ken Vermes

Terri Lyne Carrington and the Mosaic Project at SFJAZZ

Terri Lyne Carrington may be one of the few women drummers leading a band in today’s jazz world, but she is not unnoticed or unloved. At SFJAZZ on February 14, Valentine’s Day, the Grammy-winning leader of the Mosaic Project received the love and admiration of a sold-out audience, and gave back to everyone with a generous and completely satisfying set. That she is following one of the oldest traditions in jazz, creating a show band, fits the idea that drummers are often great leaders. And in that tradition, players like Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Elvin Jones and others created some of the most exciting bands of all time, in their day. Currently Carrington stands out as a leader who has established a modernistic style and a focus on song, melody, and the vocalist’s ability to personalize a performance. This show band included a pacing and presentation that constantly kept listeners attentive and involved.

Vocalists give a band an edge in communicating with today’s audiences, who may be coming to jazz for more than hard postbop lines and wish to hear actual melodies presented and formed by a professional singer. And this night there were two singers, the ethereal Lizz Wright, who sang with a gorgeous, Cassandra Wilson-like tonality, and the power house Nona Hendryx, who has gravitated to jazz from her glam rock days. The singers not only presented wonderfully inspired songs, but brought the audience into the set with an intimacy that is sometimes lacking in strictly instrumental shows. Some of the vocal highlights included Nona singing the shocking Billie Holiday tune, “Strange Fruit,” the rock and funk piece, “Transformation,” and the softer “When I Found You.” Lizz Wright captured the audience’s attention with the reworking of a Nick Drake song, “Three Hours.” The encore was a reading of the Beatles’ tune, “Michelle.” Both singers were very capable of doing an entire solo show, and the fact that they were generously presented by Carrington was fully appreciated by everyone listening.

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