Gregory Porter won over our critic at his Cistern concert last night. Joy Vandervort-Cobb wrote, "Although Porter has the capacity to riff and scat and holler with the best of them, he is a straight-ahead jazz singer, emotionally and rhythmically connected to the tunes he sings, even as he demonstrates he has the capacity to make the music leap forth." He's got one more show at Spoleto on Saturday night. Check out our video from his sound check for a hint of what's in store. And here's our interview with Porter if you feel like doing a little background reading before the show.
It was the perfect evening for a samba. The night was warm with the merest hint of a breeze whistling through the Spanish moss. Lights gave the College of Charleston's Cistern Yard a colorful luster. Famed Brazilian singer Fabiana Cozza was ready to perform her first ever U.S. concert to a thronging crowd. She swished onstage, opened her mouth... and her mic failed.
The best tech is kind the audience doesn't even notice. Most Spoleto shows have been smooth-sounding and efficiently lit. A huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure each concert is appealing to ear as well as the eye. But this year Spoleto has been plagued with uneven sound levels (the Ebony Hillbillies), overloud mixes that led some audience members to put their fingers in their ears (Lizz Wright at the Gaillard) and unintended moments of silence for Cozza.
This isn't the best way for Michael Grofsorean to celebrate 30 years of directing the Jazz Series. He accepts responsibility for the hitches, but insists that they were due to circumstances beyond his control. "Electronics are wonderful until they don't work," he says. Fabiana Cozza's first Wachovia Jazz concert on Friday June 4th proved his point more than any other show.
When Cozza realized her sound was out, she hurriedly took a handheld microphone. She couldn't hear herself so she stopped singing again, talking to the audience while the backstage crew tweaked their levels. With the sound equalized and the cable freed up, Cozza was ready to start singing some five minutes after she'd stepped on stage.
The sound snafus arose after Cozza asked to use a wireless microphone, giving her more mobility as she swayed to her catchy music. Her sound was checked for two hours that afternoon without a hiccup. But that night, it fizzled out.
The Jazz Artists of Charleston present the annual Holy City Homecomin' this evening (Tues. June 1) as part of its ongoing Upstairs at McCrady's series at McCrady's (2 Unity Alley). Already in this its third year, the two shows scheduled for 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. will highlight a program of hymns and spirituals arranged by local jazz musician Mark Sterbank.
The Mark Sterbank Jazz Group will feature five talented Carolina natives: trombonist Fred Wesley (formerly of James Brown's bands, currently collaborating with the modern klezmer group Abraham Inc.), trumpeter Charlton Singleton, pianist Tommy Gill, bassist Herman Burney Jr., and drummer Quentin Baxter. Most of these players have performed with the JAC's Charleston Jazz Orchestra over the lst two years.
"Sterbank's robust sound is known and loved all around," boasts a listing from the JAC. "All these players swing like an open gate in a Charleston hurricane. Individually and collectively, they come from a blues aesthetic that lends itself completely to the ensemble's modern interpretations of sacred music. This group literally puts the holy in Holy City."
Sterbank is assistant professor of jazz studies and saxophone instructor at Charleston Southern University. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music and Master of Music degree from the University of New Orleans. He performs locally with the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, the Quentin Baxter Ensemble, the Tommy Gill Ensemble, the Charlton Singleton Quintet, and others.
Admission is $30.
Produced and presented by the JAC, the Upstairs at McCrady's jazz series is part of Piccolo Spoleto. Each night offers two shows, one at 7 p.m. and the other at 10 p.m. The 11-night run looks to be a festival highlight.
Organizer Leah Suárez, president of JAC, was on hand on Thursday evening, as were JAC exec Jack McCray, staffer Erin Fornadel, various local media folks, and local and visiting musicians participating in the series.
The ever-evolving Pulse Trio — with Sam Sfirri on the Fender Rhodes, Ben Wells on upright bass, and Stuart White on drum kits — provided several sets of instrumental swing, funk, and modern reworkings. Sfirri's vintage keyboard added some beautiful rattle and hum to the overall sound of the trio. Well's anchored the progressions, while White made his delicately muscular drum solos and fills look effortless.
The Upstairs at McCrady's series continues tonight with two performances from Station NY/CHS, featuring guitarist Lee Barbour of Gradual Lean. Special guests include John Ellis (saxophone), Gerald Gregory (piano), Jake Holwegner (bass), and Quentin Baxter (drums). Station NY/CHS performs at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Leah Suárez & Friends perform two sets on Sun. May 30 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Advance tickets for the other Upstairs at McCrady's events are available for $20/set. Call the JAC box office at (843) 641-0011 for info.