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Jazz Fest Daily Diary

Published: 2003/04/28
by Jeff Waful

Saturday April 26

Saturday April 26

Fairmont Hotel

10:21 p.m.

Just minutes after I've finished writing about the Crosby, Stills & Nash concert from the night before, I nearly bump into Stephen Stills in front of the hotel. I briefly think about saluting him (see Friday's diary entry), but instead pretend not to recognize him. It is a bit eerie though.

11:16 p.m.

Mama's Blues

Simplicity

When Frank Zappa said "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture," he was referring to night's like tonight (although some claim that Elvis Costello originally said the famous line, but I digress). The trio Simplicity is simply jaw dropping. The venue, a quaint joint reeking of cigarette smoke and greasy pizza, is filled with geeky male musicians (myself included). No one is here for the ambiance. It's all about hyper speed freeform jazz-fusion. The stellar line-up features guitarist Frank Gambale (Chick Corea), drummer Steve Smith (Journey, Vital Information) and bassist Rob Wasserman (Ratdog). Aside from a cover of John Coltrane's "Equinox," the set is completely improvised. It is a seemingly effortless three-way musical conversation that ebbs and flows through various themes, which all culminate in thundering climaxes (think Dixie Dregs meets Project Z). Throughout the impressive performance, dumbfounded laughs and yelps can be heard around the room every time Gambale nails a 32nd-note run or Smith shreds a 16-bar fill. There are multiple standing ovations. People are just beside themselves. There's a point when some just run out of new ways to react. After a lengthy, lighting-speed drum solo, a fellow professional drummer in attendance throws his hands up as if to say, "I give up." Me too. It's time for the Architect's Shuffle.

3:12 a.m.

Fairmont Hotel

I bust out the acoustic guitar and do my best Frank Gambale impression, although it sounds more like Neil Young. In preparation for the Jazz & Heritage Festival tomorrow, we opt to go to bed "early" and skip the 5 a.m. Umphrey's McGee show at Howlin' Wolf.

I must be getting old.

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