Saturday, March 19, 2016

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
SFJAZZ Collective plays Michael Jackson

Today, let's check out some videos of the SFJAZZ Collective, who are coming to St. Louis to perform Wednesday, March 30 through Saturday, April 2 at Jazz at the Bistro.

Formed in 2004 as a project of the San Francisco not-for-profit presenting organization SFJAZZ, the Collective is an eight-piece, all-star band with an ever-evolving lineup of musicians from all over the USA and beyond.

The current roster includes Miguel Zenón (alto sax), David Sánchez (tenor sax), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Warren Wolf (vibraphone), Edward Simon (piano), Matt Penman (bass), Obed Calvaire (drums), and the latest addition, trumpeter Sean Jones, who replaced Avishai Cohen last year.

The Collective performs a new repertoire every season, with half of it being new arrangements of songs drawn from the catalog of a single, well-known composer, and half new works commissioned from all eight band members.

In the past, they've interpreted the music of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Horace Silver, Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, and Joe Henderson. (They've appeared here in St. Louis once before, in 2007 playing Monk at the Bistro with a substantially different lineup, of which Penman and Zenón are the only remaining members.)

Most recently, they've gone in more of a pop direction, this season playing the music of Michael Jackson on tour and recording it for an album, Live: SFJAZZ Center 2015, that was released earlier this month.

Truth be told, yr. humble StLJN editor was a bit skeptical when SFJAZZ announced that Jackson would be this year's featured composer, as I wondered if some of his simpler pop songs would have sufficient harmonic interest to provide grist for the Collective's improvisatory mill.

But based on what can be gleaned from the relatively few number of videos online of them playing Jackson's music, they seem to have found some pretty effective ways to use the tunes' signature licks and feels, while opening the songs up harmonically and structurally for the soloists.

You can get an idea of this works in practice in the first video up top, which shows the Collective playing David Sánchez's arrangement of Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough". After the jump, there's a brief promotional video titled "SFJAZZ Collective: Why Michael Jackson Is The King Of Pop," which features members of the group talking about Jackson's music and their relationships to it.

Below that, you can see a video made last October when the Collective did a live performance that was video simulcast by the San Mateo County Library, featuring a mix of musical excerpts, including their take on Jackson's massive 1980s hit "Rock With You," and some interview segments.

That's followed by audience-shot videos of a couple of song excerpts: "Blame It On The Boogie" from a January 2015 show at Sub-Culture in NYC, and "Smooth Criminal" from a show in October 2015, location unspecified. The sixth and final video is a complete version of "Workin' Day and Night," from the band's performance at NYC Winter JazzFest 2015.

For more about the SFJAZZ Collective's Michael Jackson project, read this interview with vibraphonist Warren Wolf.

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

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