Friday, October 22, 2010

The Pearl Thuston-Brown Takeover

Because I arrived an hour after the scheduled start time of the official public debut performance of The Gates BBQ Suite, I was forced into a far corner of the packed Blue Room on October 18. Adding insult to injury, the complimentary barbecue provided by Gates was gone.

All was not lost. I closed my eyes and blissfully listened to Bobby Watson, his current UMKC students and a few alumni impeccably perform the second half of Watson's exceptional new album.

After he noted that the project had peaked at #6 on JazzWeek's airplay chart, Watson was quick to dampen unrealistic expectations.

"I'll be driving the same car next week," he laughed. "What part of number six don't you understand?"

Watson assured the audience that a brief intermission would be followed by a jam session. It never happened. Pearl Thuston-Brown, 83, commandeered the piano during the break. And that was that.

She performed an impressive array of jazz standards and bawdy blues. I blushed when "A Good Man is Hard to Find" became "A Hard Man is Good to Find." Transport this woman to Paris and she'd be the toast of the town within weeks.

Intimidated and respectful, the other musicians didn't dare interrupt Thuston-Brown. As her impromptu recital continued, they shrugged their shoulders, packed their instruments and left. By the time she finished playing, less than two dozens people- Ollie "O.G." Gates among them- remained.

(While I'm reluctant to feature this home footage of Thuston-Brown, no proper performance documentation is available.)

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