Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: A Vibe Called Fresh at the Blue Room

I bought The Low End Theory as a new release in 1991. A Tribe Called Quest's fusion of jazz and hip hop combined my passions for both forms of music. It came as a surprise, consequently, that I was possibly the oldest person on hand in the Blue Room last Wednesday to witness a live recreation of the seminal album.

Over 100 young adults paid $10 to see Diverse, Reach and Les Izmore make the effort. Of the 100-plus times I've been to the Blue Room, it was the youngest crowd I've ever seen there. The jazz club is usually shuttered on Wednesdays. Here's hoping the success of this event will inspire the management of the American Jazz Museum to consider hosting a jazz-meets-hip hop night every Wednesday.

When I arrived, Glenn North, poet and Education Program Manager of the American Jazz Museum, was giving a thoughtful lecture on the relationship between jazz and hip hop. His presentation would be invaluable for middle school students. The talk was followed by a brief but impeccable jazz set by Diverse. The addition of pianist Eddie Moore was nice, but the clear star of the night was bassist Ben Leifer. He held it down like a champion.

After Diverse burned through Kenny Garrett's "Wayne's Thang", trumpeter Hermon Mehari rapped the opening lines of "Excursions" in deliberately inept fashion. Hilarious! I wasn't laughing quite as hard a few minutes later. I mean no disrespect to accomplished performers Izmore and Reach, but I really missed hearing the unique flows of Q-Tip and Phife. Maybe I could have make the adjustment if the distorted mix hadn't been quite so hideous.

The musicians, of course, had every right to take liberties with The Low End Theory. Yet several of their choices, including performing the album out of sequence, didn't appeal to me. Apoplectic about the sound quality and annoyed by the artistic choices, I left the Blue Room during the first break.

Elke Mermis of The Pitch liked the show more than me. Here's her review. And since I couldn't be bothered to get out of my seat, it's also fortunate that the The Pitch took good photos.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)


Hermon Mehari said...

Thanks for the review, and of course for coming to the show!

Here's the order we played the songs ;-)

Set One:
Buggin Out
Rap Promoter
Verses from the Abstract
Show Business
Vibes and Stuff
*How To Fish ( Original by Reach)

Set Two:
*Lapse (Original by Les)
The Infamous Date Rape
Check the Rhime
Everything is Fair
Jazz (We've Got)

Sucka Ni**a (from Midnight Marauders)

I apologize about the sound, heard many complaints about it.... after the fact.

Happy In Bag said...

Well, I guess I was wrong about the sequencing. Thanks for the clarification.

Regarding the sound- Les and Reach's voices overwhelmed the mix. It's nothing that can't easily be fixed the next time. And I sure hope there are many next times..