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Jimmy Herring Band, Trustees Theater, Savannah, GA – 4/26

Wagatail Productions may be located on the West Coast, but they did us Southeast Coasters a huge solid by bringing the Jimmy Herring Band to the Trustees Theater in Savannah, Georgia. Herring and the band were all smiles throughout the performance and even though the room was not quite half full, the fans that did show up were treated to one of the first shows ever performed by the seasoned guitarist and his friends.

The opening of the concert showcased splendid camaraderie and flowing streams of notes from each player. Jimmy Herring’s solo band has only been a group for a short period of time and this was very evident in the fact that saxophonist Greg Osby and keyboardist Scott Kinsey were reading charts throughout the night. While this did not deter from either of their playing, it did take away from much of the spontaneity that might have developed. The first part of the show proved quite sounded interesting with polyrhythmic grooves and well-scripted arrangements, but as the night went on, at times it started to feel like the band was walking down the same musical path over again. While there is no doubt that each musician’s playing was world class, due to their lack of collective experience, some of the potential energy in the songs was never fully released.

Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil” kicked off the show and flowed smoothly into the next two songs, “Transients” and “New Moon” from Herring’s solo record, Lifeboat. A cover combo of “Zoot Allures” by Frank Zappa and “Sophie” by Jeff Beck provided an excellent punch in the middle of the set, but again the group was still trying to feel each other out and get a grasp for the songs that they have only played a handful of times. It wasn’t until the set closing rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” that both the band and the audience really pulled out of their shells and let loose.

The highpoint of the concert was each member’s individual playing. Oteil Burbridge oozed grooves effortlessly on the bass and was always on top of the rhythms being laid down by Jeff Sipe on drums. Sipe himself was in a world of his own. Musicians always hold Sipe up to a very high level and it was obvious throughout the night as to why they do so, as he never seemed to hit a wrong note and accented the music beautifully. Meanwhile, Jimmy Herring’s guitar work was that of a true guitar hero, as with echoes of Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin and John Scofield, Herring blended and molded his guitar work to fit the intricate arrangements he chose for the two hour set.

It can take bands years to reach a point where they can just let go and let the music flow out of them, thus elevating the musical experience into something truly remarkable. Unfortunately, the Jimmy Herring Band hasn’t had enough time together to simmer. While it wasn’t a completely mind bending night of music, it was a enjoyable to hear such fantastic individual artists play together and begin to develop a musical relationship that could develop into something truly breathtaking if given the time, although with the hectic schedules of all involved I’m not sure if that will have an opportunity to happen.

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