Last Sunday afternoon, I had the most fun I’ve had at a concert in some time: Peter Erskine’s Dr.Um record release party at the Ann and Jerry Moss Theater at the New Roads School in Santa Monica. I ran into old friends like pianist Mike Lang, Robert Kraft, composer Vince Mendoza, and Julio Ledesma, who performed so brilliantly Ariel Ramirez’ moving Misa Criolla at the Hollywood Bowl on September 11, 2002, the one year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. For most of my life–since high school–I have been a jazz fan and part of a jazz community. I saw Mike Lang perform Paul Horn’s Jazz Suite on the Mass Texts at a small chapel at USC in 1966. Seeing him again felt great. Ditto for Robert Kraft, whose LP Moodswing was at one time the most-requested album at KCRW.
I saw friends who have followed jazz music as long or even longer than I have. I was also thrilled to meet fans who told me how much they appreciated my work over the years. (One audience member told me she read every Rhythm Planet post, which made me feel really good. Thank YOU for listening/reading!) There were many musicians in the audience, and all of us were jointly tuned into the music.
And the band: I was blown away by Dr. Um. The musicians: Peter Erskine, truly the poet of the drums; John Beasley with his total keyboard wizardry; Bob Sheppard’s serpentine sax solos; and a young kid named Benjamin Shepherd channelling Jaco Pastorius on the electric bass–he was amazing. The dialogue between Erskine and percussionist Aaron Serfaty was poised and wonderful, too. The whole band had radar ears and musical telepathy, something great jazz musicians have. The music had depth and history, too: Peter Erskine’s long tenure with Weather Report, songs that evoked Wayne Shorter’s mystical compositions, Shepherd’s bass solos that were uncanny in their respect for Jaco Pastorius. I loved Weather Report, and felt the presence of Jaco, Joe, and Wayne in the room.
The audience, brought together by April Williams of Musicians at Play Foundation, was locked down, listening, digging it all. I felt a group high in the acoustically-perfect room. It made me feel great to have this lifelong love of the jazz medium. The music was joyous and brought everybody together. I felt at home. This was jazz at its best.