Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chicago Concert Report

Mrs. S and I had occasion to visit Chicago recently, a great town that is just like New York in a lot of ways, except where New York never sleeps, The mid-westerners of Chicago roll up the sidewalks at 10:30 or so. Be that as it may, on our first night we managed to procure second row tickets to a fine double bill of Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Stefon Harris.

No confusion about when the concert takes place: TONIGHT!
Both of us were quite tired from the days travels and sight-seeing, and it was warmish outside, making for a stifling hot hall inside.I wish I could report that we fought through that and enjoyed the concert, but alas, the musicians and the environment failed to entertain us as well as I had hoped.

Rubalcaba opened with a solo piano act and it was, in short, technically fantastic. I’d never heard such dynamics and polyrhythmic lines and counters before. The songs were well selected, but very similar sounding, so I focused on his playing and was able to enjoy it more. Somebody’s cell phone went off way in the back, and it was one of those annoying hip-hop ring tones with rockets and thumping bass, and it kept going, and going, and going. Finally, Rubalcaba stopped to wait for the dumbass to shut off his or her phone, and when he did, everybody clapped because they thought the song was over. If it’d been me, I would have bowed and walked off the stage right then with a shout of, “You’re on, Stefon!” and I never would have looked back. Rubalcaba, on the other hand, had more patience than I, and he played out his set and a mediocre encore.

One concert, two Steinway pianos. Nice!
Stefon Harris was next, and he was fantastic. He was joined by Nicholas Payton, who is a superb trumpeter but unfortunately, on this night, he was a one trick, circular breathing pony. His solos really lacked depth and ingenuity. David Sanchez was also in tow, and while his solos were a little more fluid and better conceived, they were long and took too long to build up the tension, with the release coming only after the audience was exhausted and over-prepared. This may have been an unfortunate side effect of their band, Ninety Miles, blending several songs into long (thirty to forty minutes) operettas that again, the audience just couldn't handle. Still, Stefon’s playing was amazing, and I’m always up for good vibraphone music.

The walk back to the hotel was where we realized they had shut down the city while I was watching the concert and trying to keep Mrs. S awake. (Yeah, that kind of jazz was not her bag, at all.) At least, nobody begged for money during that twenty minute walk.

We’ll do Chicago again, sometime, but we’ll definitely wait for a better concert choice next time.