DAY 3 OF DETROIT JAZZ FEST
Those fans of jazz pianist Kenny Barron and Mulgrew Miller expecting an old-fashioned cutting contest at the Carhartt Amphitheatre stage were disappointed. Barron and Miller are classy pianists. They take their jobs seriously, and neither player is much for horsing around on the bandstand. Neither pianist attempted to outplay the other. They have similar styles and showboating is beneath them. They never deviated from the script. They played extended versions of familiar standards from the great American songbook, and that seemed to be good enough for the capacity crowd, but I found the duet lacking. Both have similar styles. It would have been more interesting if two pianist who have a little less in common had been performing. Barron and Miller are too proper to get their hands dirty.
It’s impossible for a group that has Eddie Henderson, Louis Hayes, Bobby Watson, Steve Turre, Melvin Sparks and vocalist Ernie Andrews to strike out. The Defenders of the Groove never came close to putting out a bad product Sunday evening. Steve Turre blew fire out of his seashells. Andrews’ voice was stronger than a bodybuilder’s biceps. The man is 82 years old and he was bouncing around the stage like a fitness instructor. There was an annoyance worth discussing. The Defenders of the Groove apparently travels with a hype man. I did not catch the fellow’s name, but he was corny and wasted a lot of time trying to get the audience fired up. When his unfunny wisecracks failed, he walked through the audience attempting to involve them in the performance. Bassist Christian McBride was supposed to introduce the band, but the hype man kept interrupting the bassist. Fed up, McBride gave the microphone to the attention greedy hype man. Then McBride gracefully walked off the stage. Despite the hype man’s constant interference, Andrews and company had a memorable set.