Bonnie’s Recent Favourite Concerts

Posted March 2009

As featured artist of the month on the Australian website, I was asked to write
my “High Five” – my favourite recent concerts:

Pat Metheny Trio & Enrique Morente - Palau de la Musica Catalana, Barcelona, July 2008

This concert commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Palau de la Musica Catalana, Barcelona’s palatial Art Nouveau-styled concert hall. The Pat Metheny Trio was teamed up with Enrique Morente, Spain’s iconic and quite controversial contemporary flamenco singer. He was the first to adapt the verses of Spanish poets to write his songs and his enthusiasm for innovating lead him, at one time, to create a mass in which he blended flamenco with Gregorian chanting. Despite orthodox beginnings to his career, Morente is renowned for upsetting the purists with his experimentalism and tendency to collaborate with musicians of all styles.

The concert started with Pat playing solo, employing three different guitars including his 42-stringed Pikasso. Hearing this man - whom I have been so inspired by - play his exquisite melodies in that magnificent hall was pure bliss. It was possibly my favourite part of the evening, though it was all tremendous. Pat was joined by his colleagues Antonio Sanchez and Christian McBride and they played a great set featuring tunes from their latest album “Daytrip”. Having been on the road for weeks they were wonderfully in sync with one another. There was no intermission – Pat simply introduced Enrique Morente telling the audience how honoured he was to be invited to work with him. Enrique’s first song was one Pat had written about his own beautiful wife. Following that, the Trio left the stage and Enrique’s troupe arrived to accompany him whilst he sang a set of passionate, intense and spine-chilling flamenco. Naturally, this remarkable feast of uplifting musical flavours was wrapped with all the musicians on back stage, playing the final song (then encore) together.

I recall feeling very grateful to be alive that night and was indelibly reminded of the life-enriching gift that music truly is.

Esperanza Spalding – Stockholm Jazz Festival, July 2008

I’d never heard of this Afro-ed young girl, so as I waited with the roasting afternoon crowd on the picturesque Skeppsholmen Island, cold beer in hand, I had no idea what I was in for. Esperanza is gorgeous, has uncanny chops on the upright bass and sings like a dream. She’s a refreshing blend of innocence and excellence. Her sound veers towards fusion and Brazilian merging old school with the progressive. Her energetic one hour-long set was packed with innumerable great ideas including wonderful arrangements and solos, particularly from her pianist Leo Genovese, and Esperanza on Bass.

Jens Winther – Christiania, Copenhagen Jazz Festival, July 2008

I was heading home after a long day of excellent gigs when I learned that Jens was playing at Christiania at midnight. I’d dreamed of hearing him and so I turned around and headed towards the controversial “squatted” military area that has become a partially self-governing neighbourhood in the centre of Copenhagen. I didn’t know exactly where to go and it a dark night, but fortunately I soon heard the music streaming out of a hall and realised that this was Jens’s Electrazz ensemble, which features his son Carl Winther on Keyboards, Mikkel Nordsø on guitars, Johan Kolsut on drums and Christian Douglas Danstrøm on bass.

Jens was using electrical effects on his trumpet creating a very haunting, at times ethnic sound. I was so glad I’d ventured into the night to see this midnight gig as this was music like none other I’d heard – the solos were long and engaging, inlaid within the complex structures that are his compositions, incorporating impulses taken from the 60’s and 70’s era genres, no doubt inspired by his hero Miles Davis.

Tina Harrod – The Basement, Sydney, January 2009

I caught Tina’s spell-binding set and felt thrilled that in the midst of the Sydney Festival, with loads of international artists in town, a local talent, curiously not officially included in the Festival, was holding the room rapt and wrapped in awe. Matt McMahon was like God on the piano with his poised sensitivity and slick dexterity. The piano and bass (Jonathon Zwartz) often moved together so precisely, creating unique textures in their voicings and Evan Minell blended gorgeously on drums.

Tina inspires me because she is a commanding performer who takes charge of her audience and her stage. She owns a fierce voice and demeanour that occasionally gives way to a softer, soulful delivery. This dichotomy is perhaps the foundation of her compelling song writing. She sang songs from her album Worksongs, plus a few of her signature blues, which I think she delivers better than anyone.

Dianne Reeves – Blue Note, Tokyo, February 2004

I was working at a Jazz Club in Tokyo at the time and knowing that I was an avid fan of Dianne’s, a regular guest kindly invited me to go and hear her at the Blue Note on my night off.

Tradition at the Blue Note Tokyo had the Manager theatrically sweep the star grammy-winning star through the audience, up to the stage where she sang her signature welcoming scat. As always, she had an excellent line-up with her and held the crowd in her hand from the first song, at one stage catching her band by surprise, spontaneously throwing “Misty” into the song list – a sentimental favourite tune in Japan.

These days I find myself listening to more instrumentalists than singers, but since 2001 when I discovered her, I’ve closely ‘consulted’ Diane’s excellence and really do think she is the finest living jazz singer. She’s now known for her large scale performances and I love her live album “In the Moment”, a huge production featuring her cousin George Duke on Piano. Nevertheless, it was such a thrill to hear her in a fairly intimate setting and later chat to her in the green room, where I was initially speechless upon meeting her. She saw the love and awe in my eyes, stretched out her arms and embraced me. Turned out that we were two tired, lonely girls on the road…