Friday night took us to Jazz at Lincoln Center, to hear the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, led by Wynton Marsalis. This was, nominally, a late Christmas gift to my mother-in-law and her husband, but it was also a treat for us.
The funny thing about Jazz at Lincoln Center is that it’s not at Lincoln Center, but rather on the fifth floor of the new Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. This “off-campus” facility has three performance venues (and, apparently, classroom space) and we were in the largest of the three, Frederick P. Rose Hall. Although a larger setting than I prefer for jazz, this was a very nice space, with good acoustics (unlike some of the venues at Lincoln Center proper). The other two spaces offer a smaller auditorium and a small club (albeit with “Coca Cola,” its corporate sponsor, embedded in its name) and I’m going to make it a point to get to both.
The music, not surprisingly, was excellent. In addition to the full orchestra, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and bassist Rodney Whitaker were on the program. Whitaker was great, but Gordon was just positively amazing. Check out his incredibly prolific discography on his Web site. Unfortunately, a search of Napster (the new, legal one), MusicMatch, and MSN Music turned up only one album, “Bone Structure.” I bought this and think it’s great, but not a good showcase of what I heard on Friday night. I’m going to have to hit the Tower or J&R jazz dept. and pick up some of his CDs.
There were two other very special guests, a singer and a guitarist…so special that they weren’t on the program, and I can’t remember either of their names. This is frustrating because the singer had a stunning voice – it was a cross between Aretha Franklin’s and Ella Fitzgerald’s -- and she was just a freshman in college! She only did vocals on one number, but she had the audience mesmerized.
The great thing about the program was that all the numbers followed a train theme…music about trains, and music that really sounded like trains. I was a bit surprised that the band finished their set without playing “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Luckily they came back and played it for an encore, and because the gig was at Columbus Circle, Lauren and I took the A train home immediately afterward. :-)