One of the coolest concerts I saw last year may be turning into an annual event, as Joey DeFrancesco came back to UTD last night. Just like last November, I was accompanied by Halfling and Angie (only this time we had enough tickets before we got there!). Miles joined us as well, and Alex (from Combo PM and TD/D) came with a friend to snap up my remaining two tickets.
Last time, Joey was reunited with the three local heroes (Marchel Ivery, Clint Strong and Andrew Griffith) who collaborated with him on the "Marchel Ivery Meets Joey DeFrancesco" CD (released on the late, lamented Leaning House label, but somehow still available through Amazon--yay!). This year, he brought his own trio, featuring Paul Bollenback on guitar and Byron "Wookie" Landham on drums.
The venue was different as well; unlike last year's concert (about which I posted extensively at the time), which took place in a small, sold-out theatre, last night took place in the Conference Center, where the One O'Clock Lab Band performs once a year and where I'd gotten to see the Kenny Barron Trio a few years back. There were a few empty seats, the room itself had a sort of drab, lecture-hall vibe (I'm pretty sure that's what its purpose is during the week), and the house lights couldn't be turned off separately from the stage lights. That last thing weirded Joey out for a bit, but he eventually warmed to the idea of being able to actually see the members of the audience.
Once again, Joey burned all night long. His technique was nothing short of amazing, and he coaxed a variety of colors from his Hammond B-3. His rapport with his longtime bandmates was obvious as they negotiated style changes on a dime and raised and lowered the energy level as one. Bollenback used a plethora of effects, well..effectively, turning his guitar into everything from a space-age sitar on an extended romp through "Fly Me to the Moon" (which pretty much went to the moon and back before the head ever came in) to a full orchestra's worth of strings on Joey's vocal take on "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." His clean sound reminded me of American Garage-era Metheny, and his energy ranged from a slow burn to a rolling boil throughout the night. Landham played tastefully all night behind the other two soloists and got several chances to shine on his own near the end of the night. Though the evening was mostly straight-ahead, there was a certain underpinning of funk in his playing--a reminder of what makes the classic jazz organ trio so cool.
The trio's repertoire was mostly standards, including the aforementioned Sinatra tunes, "Witchcraft" and a rollicking encore of "Kansas City." They also did a jazz turn on "Home on the Range," of all things; Joey invited the audience to sing along on one chorus, and, being Texas, we all knew the words. An audience member pointed out that the singing wouldn't have gone over so well in Philly (where Joey hails from), and the exchange ended with a gutsy admission from Joey that he's a die-hard Eagles fan and hates the Cowboys. Ehh, we all let it slide.
Joey made an important point when he came on the mic after the second tune of the evening. He said that he hoped that everyone was having a good time, because the three of them sure were. Some people, he noted, thought that you had to be all serious to play jazz (he adopted a stiff, stodgy pose as he said this), but they felt like it was really important to have a good time while playing and listening. This feeling came through all night, and the audience responded in kind.
Same time, next year?