Story and Photos by James Walker, Jr.
Saxophonist/vocalist Marqueal Jordan's "Vibes and Vibrations" is in residency at
Chicago's only smooth jazz club , Close Up 2 (CU2) each Wednesday for the
remainder of June and this is an ideal set for those looking for a "funky good
time." Accompanying Marqueal is his "usual suspects" of keyboardist Tim Gant,
bassist Lamar Jones, drummer Khari Parker, and guitarist Gerey Johnson. Johnson
and Jordan also are currently working with smooth jazz icon Brian Culbertson.
Although the house was sparsely populated at the onset of last week's
engagement, these guys "rocked the house" as if it was full to capacity. From
the initial Denise William's number "Free" to the climatic conclusion
of Faze-O's "Riding High," these cats were as hot as it has been recently in
Chicago. Their energy level was amazing and as the night progressed, it quickly
rubbed off on those in attendance.
During the first set, their rendition of Earth Wind and Fire's "Sun Goddess"
featured Jordan and Gant on keyboard. This is a classic number that Ramsey Lewis
produced and isn't often performed locally. This writer really enjoyed hearing
this number with their own little twist.
Other first set highlights included "Summertime", which was very appropriate for
the "summertime" like weather that we have been experiencing recently in
Chicago. Guitarist Johnson displayed a bluesy sound with his guitar while Jordan
cut loose on his tenor.
Jordan demonstrated to the audience his versatility as he vocalized on Marvin
Gaye's "What's Going On." One often forgets this side of Marqueal but he can
'SANG". He was complemented by Gant on a nice solo with Jones' deep bass sound
recognizable in the background.
They concluded this set with a funky "Snake/Soul Makossa" that literally had
those present out of their seats with feet tapping and heads nodding. Everyone
present(including yours truly) was feeling their vibe. Gant got into a "gospel
sound" synthesizing his keyboard with a organ like sound. Parker's monster solo
with Jones joining in with friendly bantering was special as Johnson completed
this number with his best "Carlos Santana" like smashing solo. After that
experience, it was time for a break.
During the second set, Marqueal shared the stage with a couple of his musical
friends.Vocalist Valencia Bey paid homage to Miles Davis on this his birthday
with a sparkling version of "All Blues". But it was saxophonist Chris Greene who
was simply astonishing as he sat in on "Night in Tunisia" and "Feel Like Making
Love." This talented tenor teamed with Jordan for some "double barrel" sax and
fleet fingered solos while Jones' bass tones were again discernible. Not to be
outdone, "Lil Santana" was strumming away on his guitar.
This exceptional mid week performance by one of Chicago's finest "funk/jazz"
groups concluded with the previously mentioned "Riding High." Tim Gant took
this opportunity to showcase his skills on the keyboard while Parker literally
concluded the set with a bangin' extended solo that had all again on their feet.
Wow, this is one of those hidden treasures that need to be heard by true
"funkateers". These cats jam and really enjoy what they are doing. Chicago
,here's an opportunity to check out local musicians who are also performing on
the national level when not here honing their craft. Check them out each
Wednesday from 8 to 11 pm during the month of June at CU2.
For details about future CU2 events, refer to their website at www.closeup2jazz.com.