Quite a while ago, Lime discovered that the Seoul Jazz Festival was happening (I blogged about it here) and asked me what show I’d like to see. IF you look at the program, you’ll see that it’s dominated by Japanese jazz fusion and Pat Metheny (whose music I despise), so the sensible choice was to see whatever else didn’t fit that category. She ordered the tickets, and that was that. Well, the other night, the day finally arrived, so we went and saw Joe Sample and Randy Crawford, who were accompanied by Joe Sample’s son Nicklas Sample on bass and Johnny Vidakovich — or was it Steve Gadd? I’m not sure — on drums.
The opening act was a Japanese act led by singer Akiko, and I rate them somewhere between semi-competent Latin jazz and incompetent swing. By the end of their opening set, I was glad it was done, mostly because I was ready to see some professional music-making. I have a feeling Akiko and her band might have been better in a small club — their percussionist was outstanding, after all, and she was a not-bad singer. But the keyboardist was not very into it, and the guitarist, who is apparently famous in Argentina or Brazil or somewhere, was more comfortable in the Latin numbers than in the swing, and the middle of the set was stuffed with swing tunes that I don’t think they quite pulled off.
Anyway, then there was a break and the band everyone had come to see took the stage. First off, it was just the instrumental trio, and Sample and Vidakovich showed off their skills with a number of improvisations but also with a number of stylistic shifts. Sample was doing things tinged with Monk and Pullen and he even played a tune in really old-fashioned stride fashion, and the drummer played solos the like of which I haven’t heard live in ages: the kind where a drummer makes the trap set sing musically, plays the “head” of the tune on the drums and then permutates it. There were moments that made me think of Max Roach, especially from way back in the 50s.
Randy Crawford stole the show, though, when she showed up. It wasn’t just her outfit — a crazy zebra-print dress (or so it looked from the back — white and black stripes) or her powerful stage presence: it was her voice. The recording we picked up (Feeling Good), good as it is, doesn’t do justice to her effect when she sings live. I had tingles up and down my spine, especially on the tune Feeling Good. There was one tune that didn’t do much for me: “Street Life,” a Crawford/Sample/Crusaders’ hit from 1979 that I’ve just never cared for, even though Crawford performed it well. That aside, it was nice to hear a bunch of tunes I’d never heard before. This wasn’t standards night: a lot of stuff was new to me, anyway.
All in all? A great show. My one complaint is that I wish Korean concertgoers would not clap all the way through every bloody song. One doesn’t go to concerts to hear everyone all around him clapping the beat (or, in some cases, off the beat), and it stops one from hearing the subtly interesting things the band is doing to accompany the singer. I can understand clapping along at a singalong, or for a folk singer, or when invited by the performer to clap out the beat, but some people clap their way through almost everything. It’s obnoxious, and I’ve complained about it before. At one concert I saw in Jeonju, people were clapping their way through a whole concert of music from around the world. I was ready to scream. What makes it even more painful is that all too many Koreans think that, as with classical music, 1 and 3 are the important beats (which is they they seem to think “Happy Birthday” is in 4/4, and they clap on beats 1 and 3). When you’re listening to a jazz or reggae show — in jazz and reggae, the beats you’d clap or snap your fingers to are 2 and 4 — and someone is clapping on 1 and 3, it’s musically painful.
Anyway. I don’t know where that clapping thing is, but I wish it would stop. Maybe it’s a venue thing? We were up in the top balcony, and maybe the people who paid the least are the likeliest to ruin a show by clapping their hands all the way through. But I think it’s a cultural thing: from many shows I’ve seen, Koreans in general seem to like to clap their hands to the beat of any performance (except classical music).
Whatever. It wasn’t quite as big a deal as it would have been, for me, to see, say, Pharoah Sanders or Branford Marsalis in Seoul — I missed a chance at each of those a few years ago, curse my laziness and my old work schedule! — but it was well worth it, even worth the back — or, rather, leg — pain I bought by sitting in a chair so long.