Lots of stuff going on Saturday afternoon but I opted to do my laundry and other household necessities. Missed my buddy Clayton Doley at Don Mills stage but we caught up later at the Bettye Lavette show. Bettye is fabulous – when she sang George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity” the whole tent was dead silent with rapt attention. Riveting. But I remember going to see her last time at the Phoenix and I was showing around some visiting musician and we were enjoying Bettye but at a certain point he turned to me and said “she’s done three ballads in a row and if the next tune is a slow song, I’m outa here.” And sure enough it was another slow-burner so we cut out and went to hear Tony Monaco, or maybe it was Mike Stern). Bettye sort of did the same thing this year but she can pull it off in a setting like this where she’s got the audience in the palm of her hand.
After Bettye, Clayton was anxious to hear Texas keyboard guy Bobby Sparks at the Rex but alas Bobby had to sub out to an equally amazing keyboard genius, Caleb McCampbell who joined Snarky Puppy's Michael League on bass and Jason “J.T.” Thomas, who will be playing drums with Roy Hargrove on Monday night in the tent. They were one powerful trio and the audience at the Rex loved it. I didn’t hear anybody complaining “Where’s Bobby,” (and he too will be playing with Roy on Monday night)
I cannot end without a mention of the Motown tribute band, “Big Sound” who opened for Bettye. Eight singers, many of who could sound just like the artist who did the original recording, backed up by 17 musicians who made the rest sound just like the original recording – I kid you not. All the smallest details of the arrangements of those Motown hits were covered – much more attention to detail than the Funk Brothers and no less soul.
It was great to see Paula Shear is getting back to performing and I have to say the Trane is not only establishing itself as a premiere jazz venue but they’ve got a great kitchen. I’ve never been disappointed at that place and they just have a way of putting together a meal that leaves you totally satisfied and ready for some serious listening. There was a solemn moment when Paula refered to her bass player, Louis Botos, of the near-legendary Botos brothers (how many of them are there, anyway? Enough to make an entire band, I think). Anyway there was some talk of a petition so I guess their immigration troubles are not over. They’ve certainly provided a great contribution to the jazz scene here so let’s cherish them …even though I have to say that Robi Botos is one of two musicians in this town who have declined to play with me…I remember it well, I was hosting a blues jam at the Rex during the jazz festival a few years back and all the heavy hitters like Roy Hargrove, Russell Malone and Antonio Hart were all lovin’ sitting in on my 12-bar blues but Robi left the stage, I guess in the hopes he would have a chance to play some “serious” jazz with RH a little later. But Roy and the boys just wanted to play blues all night long. Probably a nice change for them. Anyway, I don’t hold it against you, Robi. I hope you and your family can stay here forever.