Hey! Did you see me at the Orange County Performing Arts Center Friday night? If you were there, you couldn't miss me. I was the young guy.
OK, all jokes aside, I really was at OCPAC Friday night for the Blue Note 70th Anniversary tour. It was the early show and my friend Rick and I got there about five minutes before the band hit the stage. Where I come from - and by that I mean a punk/indie background - a 7:30 p.m. start usually means 8:20. Well, when you're dealing with music catered more towards adults, ie jazz, 7:30 means 7:35. I'll remember this next time. Not saying I'll abide by that rule, but I'll remember it.
The septet - pianist Bill Charlap, tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash - kicked off an hour-long set with a Horace Silver tune and later dug into songs by Dexter Gordon, Bud Powell, Duke Pearson, Jackie McLean, Bobby Hutcherson and Wayne Shorter. With only one ballad, the set was mostly upbeat and swinging, which just so happens to be the way I prefer my jazz.
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Unlike three-chord rock music, jazz is more about players and less about songs. And no one player shined brighter than Payton, a wildman who really blows (note to non-jazz fans: In many cases, the term "blows" is a negative, but in jazz, saying someone blows is one of the highest compliments you can pay. Say it at a cocktail party and you'll sound like you know what you're talking about). He was a ball of energy that ranged from smooth to fierce to harsh to mellow.
But Payton wasn't the only musician with chops. Whoever set this tour up did a fantastic job of putting this makeshift group together because each player was top notch to the nth degree. And now that I type this, I'm reminded of the soloing of drummer Nash. The guy was doing things behind the kit that put any rock drummer with a song on the Billboard charts to shame. He began a solo with his hands and played quietly, slowly building to a rhythmic explosion akin to a volcano eruption.
This was my first time at OCPAC's Samueli Theater and I gotta say, it's a beauty. Rick and I thought the show was going to be in the jazz-friendly Founders Hall (itself a lovely venue for jazz), but the Samueli was even better. I guess that's what you get when your donors have more money than third world countries.
On our walk back to the car, Rick asked that we stop for a moment to take a gander at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. I'm not normally one to take notice of exceptional architecture, but one glance at that massive beast and I was blown away. That's one fine looking structure.