The difference between live and recorded works can be summed up as "energy." There is something about live performance that has to be experienced. And although Jazz is great in nearly any venue, the true essence of Jazz can often be best felt in the atmosphere of a small dark and crowded club. In a year that saw the closing of our beloved HotHouse, and the announcement that the Jazz Showcase will reopen, we here at JazzChicago didn't see every concert (we tried), but we did see some very good ones, indeed. Some of the ones we remember include:
With a stellar front line, McCoy Tyner was surprisingly able to rock the Symphony Center, and Dee Alexander emerged as perhaps Chicago's favorite vocalist with her triumph at Millennium Park. Bill Frisell enthralled the audience at Steppenwolf in March. The Exploding Star Orchestra's set with Bill Dixon stunned the Jazz Fest crowd with its powerful dynamics, and sets by Tammy McCann, Michele Rosewoman, Charlie Haden, Robert Irving III, the Mingus Big Band, The Cookers, and more at Jazz Fest were all noteworthy. Ari Brown's Green Mill sets were excellent and solid Jazz at its best - we are truly lucky Delmark documented them. The City Jazz Latin Fest in Humboldt Park was fantastic fun. James Walker caught Ray Silkman, Skinny Williams, Audley Reid and James Perkins as they played an entertaining set as Sax in the City. And the inaugural Hyde Park Jazz Fest proved a huge success, as did WDCB's first Glen Ellyn Jazz Fest. Up and comers like Jason Steele and David Jennings played great sets, as did veterans like Willie Pickens. Seeing guitarist Frank Vignola perform in an intimate setting in rural Cambridge, WI was a true treat for me, while our talented Jean Timmons caught Stefon Harris and Roy Haynes, as well as Regina Carter and Marcus Roberts. Meanwhile, Wade Vonasek was in attendance when both Charlie Hunter and The Bad Plus hit Old Town School of Music. Finally, Nicole Mitchell's tribute to Alice Coltrane was a success that merged the mind and the heart together in a positive message.
But the most exciting concert event of the year goes for a second year in a row to "Double Trouble" - exciting young trumpeters Corey Wilkes and Maurice Brown, who nearly burned down Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge with their hot show, which also featured Ms. Alexander as well. James Walker's prescient review of this show is repeated below.
Story and Photos by James Walker
Repeat!?! It's possible the showcase of individual and collective talent on display Monday night at the Velvet Lounge bodes well for Double Trouble's repeat as JazzChicago.Net's Concert of the Year! This set was HOT!!!!
Corey Wilkes and Maurice Brown (aka Double Trouble) were at their absolute best during this special two-set gig at Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge on Cermak Road. These two have been best of friends since their school days and always take advantage of opportunities to perform together. Maurice was in town performing Sunday at the successful South Shore Jazz Festival and decided to put together a gig at the club where he and Corey perfected their craft. Proprietor Fred Anderson nurtured Maurice during his teen years and Maurice always acknowledges Fred's support.
Double Trouble was joined this night by some of Chicago's finest young budding stars: Junius Paul on bass, Isaiah Spencer on drums and Chris Robb on keyboards. Chris Robb is a native Chicagoan working out of New York alongside Maurice in his "Soul'd U Out" group. This young man can play!!! He displayed rapid-fire hands on the keyboard while demonstrating a soft touch when it was called for. The beauty of the Velvet's intimate surroundings allows for a soft touch without the need of over-amplification. Robb also showcased nice vocals with the ability to scat and improvise a wide vocal range. He truly was the "X-Factor" during this set.
Paul is no stranger to the Chicago jazz scene and is developing the reputation as one of Chicago's finest. He is in constant demand and adeptly plays both the upright and electric bass. This night was no exception, and it was evident he was "feeling" the vibes from his colleagues.
Isaiah Spencer, with his infectious smile, played commanding solos full of ideas and beautiful sounds on the drums. He held down the beat all night long which allowed him to react strictly in the moment to Double Trouble's melodic changes. Spencer is certainly no stranger to the Velvet, where he can be seen every Sunday evening fronting the weekly jam session.
Although all five musicians played parallel parts that worked well together without sounding too busy, let there be no mistake as to who was the evening's stars. Corey and Maurice playing together or individually were just stunning. They alternated notes at times in addition to their compelling solos. The standing room only crowd for both sets provided the type of energy that musicians appreciate, with toe-tapping, clapping and even all-out dancing. Both Corey and Maurice's fleet-fingered fluidity on the trumpet and flugelhorn was breathtaking, and it was simply amazing watching Maurice run long lines without taking a breath, while Corey played both instruments simultaneously. These two worked the room from one end to the other with one in front while the other played beautiful music from behind.
What would an evening at the Velvet be without a word from Chicago's reigning Queen of jazz vocals. That's right, Dee Alexander was in the audience enjoying the scintillating music, when Corey and Maurice invited her to assist with their rendition of Roberta Flack's “Feel Like Making Love.” She sang beautifully and scatted like only Dee can, to the delight of the crowd. What a bonus to hear her beautiful instrument on a night like this.
Before concluding this exceptional evening, Chicago's premier spoken word artist, Khari B, got a piece of the action, doing "Love is in the Place," while the audience played Maurice's “It's a New Day” (from his "Hip to Bop" CD) It was a nice addition to this exceptional evening.
What a night to behold!!! Having an opportunity to witness this phenomenonal group of young, talented jazz musicians was remarkable. Those missing out on this experience may be in luck, as Maurice promised to bring back "Double Trouble" on regular intervals. Don't miss out when they return. One can rest assured that JazzChicago.net will be there!!!
Finally, both Maurice and Corey were recently recognized by DownBeat Magazine as two of the most outstanding jazz trumpet players in the world. Congratulations “Double Trouble” - we are certainly proud of both of you!