At a recent performance at New York's Harlem Jazz Shrines
Festival, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington described her all female group The Mosaic Project as being "multi-ethic, multi-talented and multi-musical." The group lived up to that description in a concert on May 10th at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse. They gave the audience a night full of various musical styles ranging from hard bop to fusion to funk to gospel.
In addition to Carrington, the group included Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Tia Fuller on saxaphone, Helen Sung on piano and Mimi Jones on the bass. The lone male member was Nia Felder on guitar. They were later joined by vocalists Lizz Wright and Nona Hendryx.
They opened with "Mosaic Triad," a tune off their 2012 Grammy winning self titled CD. The band came out fast and swinging in the hard bop style with everyone stretching out on their instruments. The band simmered down when they followed with Geri Allen's "Unconditional Love."' But they kept the intensity going strong on the tune which also appears on the CD.
On the Beatle's "Michelle," Carrington opened with a long drum solo before the band erupted into a fast tempo making the melody unrecognizable on this classic tune. The horn section of Fuller and Jensen played fast and loose, but always stayed in unison with one another. Carrington throughout the tune as well as the evening played freely, displaying a Tony Williams influence.
The hard bop style took a break when the vocalists came
abroad. The first was Lizz Wright who opened with a slow bluesy take on Al Green's "Simply Beautiful." Afterwards she spoke of going thru a jazz standards book and discovering the Chick Corea-Flora Purim's "Open Your Eyes You Can Fly." Wright and the band stayed faithful to the tune's original arrangement by playing it in a light fusion style. Helen Sung swiched over from piano to the keyboards and lead the way with soft crisp notes. The band followed by starting out slowly and gaining speed as the tune progressed. Along with Wright's laid back singing, the band was able to capture the light and breezy sound of the tune's original recording.
Wright closed out her set with the tune "3 Hours." Carrington opened with a slow beating of the drums evoking the feeling of a Native American call and response tribal ceremony. The horn section sat out, allowing the rest of the band to play very low behind Wright as she sang chant like hymns.
Veteran singer and former LaBelle member Nona Hendryx took the stage and breezed thru the tunes, "Transformation" and "Strange Fruit." On the latter, she sang the social protest song in a fast funky rock style rather than the traditional slow blues way it's usually performed. The only mistep was how the song was overall presented. There was a audio soundbite of Martin Luther King speaking, which opened the song and was played throughout. But due to the low audible sound, the words were barely heard. On top of that, Ms. Hendryx and band didnt allow any space for the soundbite to be heard-they played over it all thoughout. So whatever King's words were to add to the performance were drowned out by the fast loud playing and singing.
The two vocalist then joined forces to finish the concert. After a soulful joyous rendition of introducing the band members, the duo doved into "Show Me a Sign" by Carmen Lundy. They performed it in a fusion of funk and jazz. They closed out with the gospel tune, "Walk With Me Lord." The singers and the band performed it so heavy driven that it became funky and infectious. So much that the audience got involved with a hand clapping call and response which caused the venue to be transformed into a lively Sunday morning church service.
The audience was able to coax the band back out for a encore and they performed Charlie Parker's "Hot House." It was performed in a very high intense free form which allowed each musican to stretch out on their instruments and take long solos. The Mosaic Project closed as they had opened the
concert-on a high exciting note.
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