Review & Photos | Jazz Fest After Dark | New Orleans

Saturday 4/26 - Maison - Krasno, Blades, Deitch & Bloom performing a MICHAEL JACKSON vs STEVIE WONDER A Funky Organ Throwdown + BREAK SCIENCE & Friends

Deitch's Jazzfest birthday rage then made its way down to Frenchman Street. The quartet hit at 2:30 and immediately got the entire room moving with a Wil Blades-led take on the Bad-era Michael Jackson hit "The Way You Make Me Feel," opening things up for the Hammond B3 melody to sing atop the slowed, fun and funky frolic. For the Stevie Wonder opener, the crew chose "Don't You Worry Bout a Thing," which twisted and turned through a myriad of jazz-bo hooks, nooks and crannies before exploding into a Krasno-sparked, high-energy conversation between organ, hollow- body guitar, and yet another star-turn by the rapidly renowned trumpet player Eric "Benny" Bloom; the latter took command of the stage and evolved into the de facto bandleader as he chatted up the crowd, cracked jokes and mesmerized people with luscious, sultry trumpet work on "Billie Jean." However, it was the man of the hour, the boy wonder on the drums, Adam Deitch, who per usual left jaws agape, fans peeling their bottom lips off the Maison floor. With a mind-numbing display of hard-hitting rhythms, subtle rim and stick work, and undeniable thumping lead right foot, Deitch drove the jams with an intestinal fortitude and focus rivaled by few. His ability to tastefully ebb, flow and draw the best from his collaborators is evidence to his high demand, not only throughout Jazz Fest, but all year long.

Minutes after the Stevie/Michael Throwdown, the stage was converted and Break Science kicked off with definitively more volume and infinitely more bass gymnastics, solid sonic ammunition for a dance rage deep into the French Quarter night. Deitch transformed into the crunkalogic drummer-robot that powers the NY-based, Pretty Lights Music duo. Multi-faceted instrumentalist Borahm Lee introduced new sounds and techniques to the already broad and diverse Break Science palette, alternating between Ableton, Nord-lead, Fender Rhodes and various synth patches, while cueing vocal triggers and sound effects in real time. Mainly focusing on Seven Bridges material, the duo forwarded mammoth versions of two songs that feature ethereal female vocals, "Breath of Space" (Sonya Kitchell) and "Way I Feel," the latter a prime-example of Break Science's prowess in the post-dubstep era. Earlier PLM favorites like "Forrest of Illumination" and "Beaming Up" got dirty and sounded fresh as ever.

Analog Future Band mates Bloom and Scott Flynn (Trombone) joined in on a few reggae and trip hop-tinged numbers ("Look Into the Hourglass" and "Whole World Locked") that sonically reached as much toward Bristol, UK, as they did Brooklyn or Boulder. “Move Ya Body,” an early songwriting collabo with a pre-Paper Diamond Alex B, sounded fresh as ever. Borahm Lee introduced a more evolved edit of the Break Science-refashioned "Owner of a Lonely Heart" that was surprisingly faithful to the Yes original. Sometimes mashed-up rap verses sounded less than ideal for Break Science's ever-progressive sound (see "Who Got It" featuring Redman's), other times the same artist's words worked well ("Brain Reaction"). However it was the mellow-yet-heavy Seven Bridges album cut "Once in a While" that demonstrated just how emotional and soulful Break Science (and by proxy, electronic music as a whole) has the potential to be. With a midtempo drum break, walls of synth, bulbous juno-bass rolls and colorful Rhodes from Lee, Ms. Kitchell's erotic and pining vocal stylings soared atop a positively inspiring track that swelled into a spirited sea of sound that grabbed a hold of our hearts and penetrated our bass chakra.

Sunday 4/27 - Maple Leaf Bar - The Untouchables

[The Untouchables - Photo by David Vann]

The Untouchables was another one-off jam collective assembled for the purposes of Jazz Fest, yet these cats were more than familiar with one another, and the material they chose could not have been more appropriate. This gig saw saw most of Lettuce, with Big D Perkins of Boukou Groove handling guitar duties, unleashing two hours of pure, unadulterated Herbie funk. As one may have guessed, The Untouchables performed solely material from Hancock’s most funky era, the mid 1970’s, namely songs from the HeadHunters, Manchild and Thrust albums. Like any self-respecting funk musicians, the Royal Family knows these tunes inside and out, like the back of their hands, every little hidden lick and tendency was fleshed out to the max and with verve taboot. In this setting, each player was in subconscious lock-step with another, the Berkelee School of Music training of the mid-90s rearing its head in these structured compositions. .

Nigel Hall led the troupe, bringing it all together with analog synths, as Deitch and Jesus Coomes supplied the weighty low end. Perkins was the wildcard, delivering staccato, rhythmic guitar work inside of Coomes’ thunderous-yet-agile, Paul Jackson bass gymnastics. Ryan Zoidis did his best Bennie Maupin, lacing the tight robotic funk with rallying cries on sax, augmented by the tasteful trumpet stylings of Bloom; their virtuoso really came through during elements of “Sun Touch” and “Steppin’ In It.” The two horn players pushed through the dense mix to the forefront at times, only to fall back into the weeds for Hall or Perkins to dominate. The music possessed the loosest kind of structure, Deitch manning the drum kit with Mike Clark precision, quick passages turning into heavily Echoplexed Rhodes or analog licks from Hall that set off a myriad of jams: “Actual Proof” was first degree murder, as was “Watermelon Man” and the late show fury of “Hang Up Your Hang-Ups” did more than just deliver, it showed and proved just why this collection of musicians were up for the Herbie challenge; and on this night, they were indeed untouchable.

[The Untouchables - Photo by David Vann]

[The Untouchables - Photo by David Vann]

Monday 4/28 - Maison - DarkWave

[DarkWave - Photo by David Vann]

DarkWave's NOLA debut began slowly and unsteadily, as John Medeski's Hammond B3 malfunctioned, while Adam Deitch and Skerik foiled one another with free-jazz vamps and cacophony. Enter Ike Stubblefied to the rescue, and with a little elbow grease and Jazz Fest karma, the organ was screaming Leslie reverberations within minutes. Just like that, we were off! Nefarious netherworlds arrived in a series of waves cloaked in frightening darkness; this is an aptly monikered trio. Kicking down heady vamps and joints from their forthcoming record, DarkWave unleashed a lesson in sonic bondage and tourniquet terror. Skerik's inimitable notes serenaded sadistic skronkophonics. Drummer Deitch brings out the best in any player he is collaborating with, or he channels a particular side or style of his cohort that suits the moment's need. On this night, Deitch was at his most dynamic, baiting and surrendering to the flow and playing loose and lyrical early. As the show wore on and temperatures rose inside Maison, Adam began to channel the classic hip hop knock, with a lead right foot and backpacker's integrity. Commandeering the ship, Deitch set the table for Medeski to channel his inner Shack-Man, in the form of B3 and Wurlitzer spastic shrieks, the torrid response to the Deitch/Skerik snap and release. Skerik needs not a reason to get weird, but Deitch and the Bull gave him more than a few, yet the drummer remained the anchor and the captain of this beautifully nightmarish séance. The last forty minutes of the DarkWave performance was some of the most progressive free-jazz my ears have ever been blessed with, a spun 'Trane tipsy off some Bitches Brew, a combusticated critter bugging out on a new level, so hot that it required a call to the Fyre Dept. Trip hop and free-Jazz, on steroids.

[DarkWave - Photo by David Vann]

Tuesday 4/29 - Little Gem Saloon - The Fantastic Four featuring The Shady Horns

[The Fantastic Four - Photo by David Vann]

The Fantastic Four can be counted on as an annual Jazz Fest gig that will deliver in spades. 2014's incarnation of this group included mainstays Robert Walter, Eric Krasno, along with Adam Deitch and Chris Stillwell on bass. With the Shady Horns Ryan Zoidis and Eric Bloom on hand for the brass, the Little Gem Saloon stage was set for a Greyboy/Lettuce- West Coast/East Coast collaboration of slammin' jazz funk and ultra blue rare grooves. Kicking things off with a bright punchy take on Funk Inc.’s seminal "Kool is Back," it was clear from the beginning that Walter and Deitch would be the co-pilots, and the other players would follow their leads to the promised land. Uniquely different styles converged in a shared obsession with breakbeats and crate digging found the drummer and keyboardist getting money in the middle, dropping a dirty version of Bob James oft-sampled "Nautilus" and both Adam and Robert cracked huge grins and cackled as they looped up a tasty run on Gang Starr's moment in time "Mass Appeal,", before seamlessly returning to "Nautilus" ‘with that understandable smooth shit that murderers move with.’

[The Fantastic Four - Photo by David Vann}

Tuesday 4/29 - Blue Nile - The WHIP

[THE WHIP’s RonKat Spearman and Eric McFadden - Photo courtesy of RonKat Spearman]

Another yearly lineup that never fails, The Whip kicked off just before 3 a.m. and was the first of many a welcome detour from the superjam norm, a colossal collective of sinister and sultry, the darkside of David Ruffin, and the evil of Eddie Hazel's Funkadelic fury, yet at once grown n' sexy, with Blaxploitation pimpin, Bay Area meets Detroit on a mothership connection. This year saw The WHIP featuring regulars Brian J (Guitar/Vocals - Pimps Of Joytime), Robert Walter (Hammond B3 - Greyboy All-stars), Eric McFadden (P-Funk All-stars), Robert Mercurio (Bass), Corey Henry (Trombone/MC) and Stanton Moore (Drums - Galactic). But it was the guitar and vocals of RonKat Spearman (KatDelic, P-Funk All-stars) that set the tone and cured the energy that made this performance unforgettable. Along with the swagger and trombone G-code enforced by Treme OG, and Rebirth-bred Corey Henry, it was KatDelic funkateer who steered the ship away from ham jamming and channeled a vibe that was one of the sexiest I can ever remember at Blue Nile. A chopped, slowed and stirring mashup of Steve Miller's "Fly Like an Eagle" traded volleys with WAR's "Slippin' into Darkness" for what seemed like hours, each minute the spicy vibes getting thicker, the colors whispering torrid come- ons in our mind's ear. Jazz Mafia man Mike Olmost dipped into the fray with Deitch taking over the drum kit and upping the ante, punishing Stanton's custom kit like it was his own Harley hog on the open highway.

DJ Kevvy Kev joined the fray, and by the end of the evening, after all the lovers rocked and many people had rolled, the drummer boy wonder and Boom Boom Room treated the remaining revelers to a classic run off the Jackson 5's "The Love You Save", ten more minutes of funk, the duo juggled breakbeats, boom-bap and old-school turntablism.

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