08/31/12 By Ken V
Yoshi pulls out the stops with stunning show featuring Bela Fleck and Marcus Roberts
A surprising and joyous collaboration-Yoshi's features a show that is full of joyous surprises
For Immediate Release
By Jazz Spy
August 31, 2012
Seeing Bela Fleck and Marcus Roberts in a roller coaster ride through new musical places
One of the most exciting shows in Yoshi’s history comes in time to celebrate forty years of Yoshi’s jazz clubs.
And in forty years of Yoshi’s show there has rarely if ever been anything quite like the performance of Marcus Roberts and Bela Fleck that opened last night in San Francisco. How do I know this? Well, for one thing, the banjo has not been part of a modern jazz group, to my knowledge, ever before, and especially fronting a top flight trio like the Marcus Roberts band.. And there just has not been someone like Bela Fleck, transforming himself into a full fledge jazzer, improvising at break neck speed, and inspiring the talented Marcus Roberts to play himself into the jazz stratosphere, in a straight ahead jazz group ever, at least to my knowledge.
After two sets, and two standing ovations, one is left with the question, where has Bela been? I certainly like his other band, which at times delivers very catchy and iconic hooks. But playing with Marcus and the absolutely wailing rhythm section of Jason Marsalis and Rodney Jordan has created something so thrilling to this listener, that you may not see anything quite like it any time soon.
This band was a showcase for originality, complexity, and collaboration. The band did not play one standard. They did not attempt to delve into jazz history, or much of the history of the banjo itself, except for one original penned by Fleck in a blue grass style. And that said, they used the special qualities of the instrument in a very new and surprising ways. That is, it fell to Bela to weave his way through the pieces using mostly melodic lines, rather than rhythm tricks that the instrument is known for. What was left was a fascinating trip through pure collaboration and very imaginative inventiveness. Right before our eyes were the results of a very creative team effort by a band on the highest level of performance and invention.
If you see only one show at Yoshi’s during this celebratory year, I say see this one. There are bigger stars, flashier shows and more to come. But you will never see such a thrilling trip to the basis of all improvised music right before your eyes, anything like this. And I promise an experience that is both moving, inventive and unique.
Finally, it must be said that Marcus Roberts has fully emerged as a jazz giant. And if he keeps playing with this level of inspiration and joy, he will soon be known as a powerhouse with few equals. This was a night of the highest art. As we bounced out of the lobby, we knew that we had witnessed a performance that will be remembered for a very long time.
Ken Vermes writes as the Jazz Spy and can be found In the Commuter Times and on Facebook.
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