Monday, February 13, 2017

Two CMA concerts

“I consider myself very fortunate.” — Aaron Diehl

PAUL is busy enough as a musician that he not infrequently ends up having a gig on a night I'd like for us to be able to go somewhere together. And so it was that I attended two Des Moines Civic Music Association concerts without him: Manhattan Transfer with Take 6 on November 5 and Aaron Diehl with Warren Wolf February 10.

At least for the first one, I knew in advance that he had a musical conflict so I only bought one ticket. Paul had purchased two tickets and planned to take me to the Aaron Diehl/Warren Wolf concert until about a week before the performance when he recollected that he was playing two shows in Davenport that same night. Ah well.

The two concerts yielded two widely varying experiences for me.

I don't know what I was thinking in wanting to hear Manhattan Transfer. We have a Take 6 CD that we play from time to time, and I remembered that I like it, but apparently I forgot that I really don't like Manhattan Transfer very much at all. My opinion wasn't changed hearing them in person. I squirmed and was bored when Transfer performed; when Take 6 joined them it was better, but the only time I relaxed and enjoyed any part of the evening was when Take 6 performed alone.

Paul said, "Yeah, I kinda wondered about you wanting to go to that one. Manhattan Transfer is too square for you." I was thankful Paul was spared.

Take 6

Manhattan didn't transfer for me.

Oh but the Friday, February 10 concert was a different experience all together! I loved jazz pianist Aaron Diehl and vibes player Warren Wolf's performance. They're both phenoms. The New York Times has described Aaron's playing as “melodic precision, harmonic erudition, and elegant restraint.”

Aaron, who is a graduate of Juilliard, began studying classical piano when he was seven. His appetite for jazz emerged at Interlochen Summer Camp in Michigan where pianist Eldar Djangirov’s avidity for Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum made a lasting impression.

Aaron Diehl

Aaron's virtuosity has not gone unrecognized. In 2002 he was a finalist in Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington competition where he was chosen as Outstanding Soloist, and the next year he was invited to tour with the Wynton Marsalis Septet in Europe. In 2011 he was the winner of the Cole Porter Fellowship from the American Pianists Association. He received the Jazz Journalists Association Award for Up-And-Coming Artist in 2013, and in 2014 he was chosen as the Monterey Jazz Festival Commission Artist, one of the youngest musicians ever named.

For it he composed Three Streams of Expression, dedicated to pianist and composer John Lewis, and I was lucky to get to hear it played live Friday night. A fusion of classical music and jazz, it's beautiful!

Baltimore native, Warren Wolf, began classical musical training, studying vibraphone, marimba, drums and piano under the tutelage of his father, when he was just three years old. Warren is a graduate of Peabody Preparatory, Baltimore School for the Arts and Berklee College of Music, where he was asked to join the faculty soon after graduation. He's now a full-time touring musician, composer and recording artist.

Warren Wolf

Aaron and Warren were backed up by bassist Peter Washington and drummer Pete Van Nostrand. Peter is the best bassist I've ever heard. Paul says that Christian McBride often plays bass with Aaron, and Paul really likes Christian, but not having heard him myself, I'll take Peter any day.

My two favorite pieces were Aaron's Three Streams of Expressions and the encore, an original composition of Warren's 
called Wolfgang, played by just the two of them, which is the title song of his sophomore album. Listening to it felt like floating.

For those of you might want to catch either one of these virtuosos, their upcoming schedules are below. To purchase CDs go to Mack Avenue.

Aaron Diehl

February 16 — University of Massachusetts | Amherst, MA

February 17 — Berklee Performance Center | Boston, MA

February 19 — University of Michigan | Ann Arbor, MI

February 21-22 — The Dakota | Minneapolis, MN

February 23 — Koerner Hall | Toronto, ON

February 24 — Centre Pierre Péladeau | Montreal, QB

March 3 — Center Theater | Skokie, IL

March 5 — Holland Performing Arts Center | Omaha, NE

March 7 — Campbell Hall | Santa Barbara, CA

March 10 — Walt Disney Hall | Los Angeles, CA

March 11 — Bing Concert Hall | Stanford, CA

March 13 — Kuumbwa Jazz Center | Santa Cruz, CA

March 14 — Jackson Hall | Davis, CA

March 16-19 — SF Jazz | San Francisco, CA

Warren Wolf

February 2 — Dizzy's Club Coca Cola | New York City, NY

February 18 — West End Cultural Centre | Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

February 22 — Northwestern State University | Natchitoches, LA

March 1 — WBGO-FM radio show | Newark, NJ

March 4 — Folly Theatre | Kansas City, MO

March 7 — Howard University | Washington, D.C.

March 7 — Towson State University (5:30pm) | Towson, MD

March 9 — National Gallery of Art | Washington, D.C.

March 10-12 — Dizzy's Club Coca Cola | New York City, NY

March 13-19 — Columbus Jazz Orchestra | Columbus, OH

March 24-25 — Spring Festival of Percussion | Phoenix, AZ

March 28 — Brooks Center for the Arts | Clemson, SC

March 30 — Shalin Liu Performance Center | Rockport, MA

March 31 — The Egg | Albany, NY

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