Mack Avenue Superband - Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival 2015

Mack Avenue Superband
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Mack Avenue SuperBand – Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival 2015

The SuperBand jam session at the Detroit Jazz Festival featuring artists from the Motor City’s jazz label Mack Avenue Records is a familiar and much anticipated event for anyone fortunate enough to attend,  or who has the good fortune to get an audio recording of the proceedings.

Mack Avenue SuperBand – Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival 2015

The SuperBand jam session at the Detroit Jazz Festival featuring artists from the Motor City’s jazz label Mack Avenue Records is a familiar and much anticipated event for anyone fortunate enough to attend,  or who has the good fortune to get an audio recording of the proceedings.

Still, bassist and music director Christian McBride looked for ways to shake things up during the Mack Avenue SuperBand’s 2015 performance. While previous sessions had a number of covers, 2015 was comprised of original compositions written by the performers with the one exception being “Test of Time,” written by Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone. Secondly, fans get to hear the voices of the SuperBand members because McBride gives them space to introduce their tunes. It was a different way to add voices to what has largely been – with the exception of vocalists such as Ceclie McLorin Salvant in 2013 - an instrumental affair. Hearing these highly accomplished musicians introduce their songs humanizes them because the enthusiasm and pride that each takes in his or her work is audible.

The familiarity returns once this ensemble begins to play because whether the SuperBand reinterprets standards, contemporary pop and gospel tunes or plays their own originals, the virtues that distinguish previous Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival albums are manifestly present on this effort. Jazz, perhaps more than all other genres, is best appreciated when heard live because that’s when the notes on those charts become three dimensional, as the musicians engage in instrumental conversation and use the notes written on the page as a runway for creative flight.

Kirk Whalum’s tenor sax soars on “Preach Hank,” his contribution and homage to the late hard bop saxophonist Hank Crawford that opens the show, and his solo dexterity is joined on energetic solos by Freddie Hendrix’s power packed trumpet, Tia Fuller’s work on the alto, Gary Burton’s smooth effort on the vibe and as well solos by pianist Christian Sands and McBride’s soulful playing on acoustic bass. The track typifies “the whole is greater than the sum of its part” ethos heard throughout this album. Each artist gets a solo, and yet the effort does not sound forced and the horn play that opens the tune illustrates this group is equally strong as an ensemble and as individual soloists. Burton’s decision to include Ozone’s “Test Time” was inspired as the song’s easy swing make it the perfect segue to Sands’ hard charging “Up.”

The new wrinkles that McBride and company brought to Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival 2015 will ensure that listeners find the album enjoyable. However, those long time selling points of strong composing and a group of players who can bring it individually and as an ensemble are what make Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival 2015 one that jazz fans will want to add to their collections. I already can’t wait for the 2016 edition. Strongly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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