How was your experience?
I was not sure what to expect from this show. I have seen many jazz concerts over the years and was a little worried this might lean too far toward music education and away from a true performance. This was, in fact, the real deal. The JazzReach: Ellington quintet was really polished and knew the material so well. The fella on the piano sounded just like the Duke --with staccato bursts and tinkling keys over the melodies. The alto and tenor sax players were terrific, too. The rhythm section kept a sweet groove going through all the songs. They played a medley of hits to start the show, then a narrator/ poet came out to lead the show by introducing songs and giving biographical and historical context to the songs. The song selections weren't all familiar to me, and that was not a bad thing. Ellington wrote thousands of songs, so it was nice to hear fresh stuff to my ears. The band all took their turns at improv. The solos were very successful and sounded terrific. This was a pretty quiet, reserved crowd. Welcome to Irvine. The narrator got the crowd involved at one point with some audience participation - call and response. My kids and everyone seemed to enjoy that. Their set closed with a funky song called Blue Pepper from an album of Duke's from 1967 - Far East Suite. It was fantastic. It was a number that grabs you by the lapels and was relentless until it ended. Awesome performance. I downloaded the original on iTunes the next day and have to say that this band did a remarkable job - coming close to the original. It was amazing to realize that Ellington was 68 when he composed that song! The show lasted a little over an hour. I would have loved to hear more. It was neat that they returned for an encore and said, "Any requests?" Clearly, they knew the Ellington songbook. These guys did Ellington proud with really solid musicianship. The encore they played was, "In a Mellow Tone." I guess they didn't hear the guy that shouted, "Freebird!" Awesome, really enjoyable show.