A few weeks ago I ventured a few hours outside New York to a beautiful venue called the Falcon for a double bill concert, Jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan and jazz bassist Cameron Brown followed by Danish saxophonist Niels Vincentz trio featuring Cameron Brown on bass again and Billy Hart on drums.
Set in a wooded area with a waterfall running by the outside deck, the venue boasts a large candle lit seating area, a generous stage and an enthusiastic audience.
Sheila and Cameron performed a set that validated all my preconceptions of New York. It was entertaining, unusual, challenging, charismatic and it was – what I can not often say – real musical ART. It is unusual to see a vocalist perform a whole set just with the bass, you are truly musically exposed as there is nothing to hide behind so it was wonderful seeing someone as an accomplished vocalist as Shiela work with a talent such as Cameron. As a duo they far surpass being ‘inside the song,’ they are completely fluid with it and each other, able to comfortably improvise when the song suddenly takes an unexpected turn in feeling due to one of the two doing something creative and able to draw out or speed up phrasing to the extreme without ever loosing their spot in the form. They have the most fantastic musical rapport between two people that I have ever seen on stage, joking with each other and challenging or tricking each other during songs all with complete trust and mutual respect.
Sheila improvised or performed altered lyrics to many of the songs which gave the audience a real thrill and had everyone laughing, for example in Honey Suckle Rose she sang “don’t buy sugar, you just have to touch those strings, your’e my sugar, Cameron Brown when you make it swing!” Cameron played with such melodic creativity and a beautiful mixture of colours, timbres and techniques, it was beautiful to hear.
The received a standing ovation and an encore in which they performed ‘The Crossing’ – where the joy outweighs the pain – an original song of Sheila’s about sobriety which was poignant and moving.
In the second set it was exciting to see Niels Vincentz take to the stage along with Cameron and Billy Hart. Niels plays the saxophone the same way he speaks, softly, thoughtfully, concise and with a lovely accent. His original compositions are beautiful and obviously draw on an eclectic range of influences. Niels is obviously a very accomplished musician who is bringing some beautiful compositions to the jazz world. My favourite of his compositions was middle eastern inspired ‘Habibi.’
Billy engaged a sparse drumming style, leaving a lot of space and sometimes dropping a beat to accent subsequent ones, sometimes changing the groove so sharply it was like that one kid in the whirlpool who suddenly runs against the tide until you get the relief of it changing direction. Billy’s playing was considered and specific and it was amazing seeing how it worked with the music. The previous night I had seen this same group perform but with drummer Anthony Pinciotti who had drummed with a much busier style and had conjured up images in ones head of the weather, sometimes a huge storm or sometimes a calm sunny afternoon, each of the two drumming styles brought a wonderfully unique element to the music.
Cameron once again played with such beautiful note and phrasing choices that it was almost like a second melody dancing in between Niels’ saxophone.
It was such a wonderful night of music presented by four immensely gifted and equally friendly and engaging individuals and I would highly recommend listening to all of them individually or even better, seeing them live