Review: Jazz trio and banjo, led by Bela Fleck, lives up to expectations
Bela Fleck and Marcus Roberts say their musical understanding is constantly growing, and that development was clearly present Saturday evening.
From the brisk development of "Some Roads Lead Home" to the driving, up-tempo "Petunia" that closed the set, banjoist Fleck and pianist Roberts showed their blend of a jazz trio and banjo is more than an idle curiosity.
Fleck and the Roberts trio performed two sets at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side and showed great development from the time their album "Across the Imaginary Divide " was released in the early summer. Indeed, a second visit might be in order.
While the album proved this combination could work without any hitches, their play Saturday night showed it could find a place in the jazz repertoire. Just as a trio can fit well with a violin, harmonica or even mandolin, a banjo-based trio can work.
Of course, it doesn't hurt when the banjoist is as talented as Fleck.
He can rip through traditional-sounding banjo lines, as he did on "Petunia," but also add background riffing of the type a guitarist might add. On "One Good Truth," as bassist Rodney Jordan explored his solo,. Fleck roamed around him, offering the kind of support a good jazz person would provide.
The only weak spot of the banjo-jazz combination is the lack of dynamics in the banjo. It simply can't get loud, so its ability to offer a forceful statement is limited.
The most convincing stretch of the concert was when the group rolled into a gospel-based "Prickley Pear" behind Jordan's low-down bass opening. That tune rolled through a nouveau-church-like setting, even using some call-and-response from Fleck and Marcus before going into what seemed to be another solo from Jordan.
But that solo actually was a lead into the pleasant, mid-tempo "I'm Gonna Tell You This Story One More Time." It was the kind of clever combination of tunes jazz groups with more history that this one use.
The set was more than Fleck and Roberts. Both Jordan and drummer Jason Marsalis got plenty of places to solo, giving them an almost equal role with the two stars.
But those two players grabbed the most attention, naturally. The banjoist showed his unworldly skills steadily and Marcus demonstrated broad talents on piano. His solos were complex, but never stressed the listeners too much. For instance, in his solo on "Let Me Show You What To," he roamed through curiously changing phrasing that seemed to have erratic rhythm. Yet, it never changed tempo, so it didn't get too odd to handle.
This concert lived up to its potential, taking a step above meeting expectations.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Year’s worth of rain floods Qatar
- Steelers veteran linebacker Harrison focused on stretch run
- Online sales, promotions give Pittsburgh-area stores global reach
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin ends practice with third-down work
- Penguins co-owner Lemieux snuffs rumored rift with Crosby
- Crosby scores twice, Malkin delivers OT goal as Penguins beat Blues
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra offers own tradition with ‘Waltz’
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not grooming successor to RB Williams
- Starkey: Artie Rowell’s incredible odyssey
- Friends, family, history lure natives back to Western Pennsylvania
- Emotional send-off awaits Pitt seniors