Jazz sucks. I don't particularly care to ever hear it again, especially live. But this condition is probably temporary, an unfortunate but unavoidable byproduct of attending eight Yoshi's sets -- two per night, ninety minutes a shot, twelve solid hours total -- in four days.
I remain confident I will recover my affinity for jazz. David Sánchez, sadly, is most likely lost to me forever.
As Yoshi's freaks know, the deified Jack London Square sushi and jazz outpost -- conveniently located next to Ben & Jerry's! -- tends to invite its big-shot artists for an extended weekend. The standard swing: Thursday through Sunday, two sets a night, 8 and 10 p.m. Except Sundays, when you get a 2 p.m. kid-friendly matinee and then a climactic, blowout 8 p.m. close.
Although, say, trumpet superstar Arturo Sandoval will rumble into town for a whopping six-night, twelve-set stay early next week, most Arturophiles will purchase one ticket for one show on one night, with the reasonable assumption that if you've seen one Arturo set in November 2004, you've essentially seen all ten.
But ah, this is jazz, famed purveyor of improvisation, spontaneity, surprise. Does the 10 p.m. Thursday crowd secretly worry that the 8 p.m. Friday show was far superior? Does Saturday night innately favor drum solos? Does one randomly selected show per artist feature rampant violence and/or nudity, and you're just constantly picking the wrong one?
Is there ever really a difference?
"It really varies act to act," says Peter Williams, artistic manager at Yoshi's. "If it's somebody who has a huge book, you could hear completely different songs and different sets every night. Whereas, somebody might be touring in support of a new CD, and you'll hear some of the same stuff every night. But even night to night, if David plays a tune from his new CD Thursday, it may sound completely different on Friday. You'll hear people do things as a ballad one night and as an uptempo thing the next night."
So here's our mark: David (that's Da-veed) Sánchez. Puerto Rican Latin jazz dude, mid-thirties. Well respected (Grammy, etc.). New CD, Coral, an orchestral sorta thing recorded in Prague. Thursday through Sunday, two shows apiece. Bring on the violence and/or nudity. And thank god Ben & Jerry's is across the street.
Yoshi's waitresses get hit on a lot, evidently. One gentleman intimates that he has snuck booze into the club, generating a lot of waitress-to-table nervous laughter and, it should be noted, absolutely no sex appeal. Chump.
Ah, but David, David, David. One can easily imagine Sánchez pickin' up comely lasses at the T.G.I. Friday's bar after-hours -- he's sleek, svelte, smiley. He introduces his quartet immediately: Adam Cruz (another looker) on drums, homely-by-comparison Edsel Gomez on piano, and upright bassist Hans Glawischnig on bass, an Austrian-American dude enamored of goofy facial expressions and patently ludicrous paisley shirts.
David plays it loose, smilingly wielding his sax like a bat and knocking imaginary dirt off his imaginary cleats as the boys launch into Coral's title track, a Heitor Villa-Lobos tune. A cell phone rings immediately, but an unfazed Sánchez launches into a big honkin' BLEAT (breath) BLEAT (breath) BLEEEEEAT climax nearly as fast, theatrically yanking his sax back from the mic for the big honkin' notes, and immediately commanding That's Why My Name's on the Goddamn Marquee status. Yeah, a dude behind me growls.
But the second tune, an original named "Peace" ("We definitely need it," David earnestly notes), truly kills it. A complicated, stop-start bass-and-piano riff chases its tail in tight circles as David honks lustily and Cruz triggers a slow-burn snare drum avalanche. It finally breaks and reverts to solo sax as a train goes rumbling by -- we can feel both the horn and the rumble equally. Home freakin' run.
Two other tunes distinguish themselves: Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar" gets the brush-drums ballad treatment: long high notes, pregnant pauses, and a general pre-psycho Tom Waits feel. Nice piano solo. Yeahhhh, says the dude behind me, lower-register this time. And a bluesy piece credited to Dominican Republic big-shot José "El Canario" Alberto features a strutting chorus, easily the most out-there piano and sax solos of the set, and generally Sánchez' most Latin jazz-centric inclinations. Dirrrty.
"Well, that was nice," notes an awestruck gentleman at my table as David reintroduces the band and scores a 3/5 standing O. "That guy's got tone till next Tuesday." And here he's only gotta last till Sunday.
Ben & Jerry's interlude: Oatmeal Cookie Crunch.
I return for the 10 p.m. set as chicks clutching CDs chirpily chat up drummer Cruz, who is discussing the band's hotel accommodations.
Inside, the Waitress Safari begins anew. "So, are you a fan of jazz?" one patron suavely asks, before he and his buddy avidly discuss drumming techniques, complete with table-pounding demonstration. Thanks to the club's longstanding holdover policy -- if the 10 p.m. set isn't sold out, those with 8 p.m. tickets can stay for the second show -- we're guaranteed a completely new clutch of tunes in the second set, delivered in a more relaxed atmosphere. Thus, Paisley Hans is onstage, noodling on his bass before the lights even go down.
Eddie Palmieri's "Adoración" provides us with a cheese-and-salsa appetizer, but "Canción del Cañaveral" trumps it, bursting in with a vicious, 100,000-Red-Sox-fans-stomping-their-feet-in-unison drum solo that leaves our eyes bugged out and our Cheeto chambers agape. I look up and one of the table pounders is staring at me in awe. "I still don't think he broke a sweat," he says.
David takes long sax solos thereafter, but he's now officially fighting for onstage dominance. In between brawls, he makes endearingly awkward small talk -- "That was an original tune. [Pause.] I wrote it" -- and especially talks up his lovely experience making Coral in Prague. Evidently it was "somethin' else."
The rest of the set is a meandering, solo-juggling affair, pleasant but pretty indistinct. Lots of people leave early, including the table-pounders. Has the Burnout already begun? We'll figure it out later.
The 8 p.m. crowd skews older; the Waitress Safari is therefore off. But David is more playful, convincing the "Welcome to Yoshi's" voiceover guy to announce, along with the turn-off-your-cell-phone plea (ignored, again), that Hans is wearing a new shirt tonight. True to form, it's hideous. A nice opening gambit before a note has been played.
Ah, but tonight is Piano Night. The set again begins with "Coral" and a cool-but-not-as-cool "Peace" ("We desperately need it"), but Edsel Gomez takes charge immediately; louder, angrier, more bombastic. He then absolutely kills it on "Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar" (once again slotted third), dropping resplendent high-pitched keyboard icicles, and suddenly I turn into the Yeah Guy.
So Edsel carries the day, despite the fact that from 10 p.m. Thursday on through the weekend, he accents his height by sitting on what appears to be either the Yellow Pages or a large book of sheet music spread out on the piano bench.
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