Wycliffe's Jazz a la Carte

The NYC to Japan version of jet lag has found me waking up at 4AM in the morning. I'm used to getting up at 9AM after a late night at work, so this is definitely out of the ordinary for me. The good news is that you can't practice in the hotel at 4AM in the morning, so this has left me time to catch up on emails and even make a blog posting about a recent experience I had. 

About five or six years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Wycliffe Gordon play live for the first time. As you might imagine, I quickly learned that if you have a night off from work and Wycliffe is playing, you should get to the box office as fast as you possibly can and get a ticket. The price of admission will never outreach the value of entertainment and inspiration that he provides. A few weeks ago, I saw Wycliffe's "Jazz a la Carte" at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. It was advertised as a variety show of sorts and the tickets were only $10 a pop. I took my last personal day of the season to avoid having to play two operas on the final Saturday of the season (the first show of the day was Walkure, took the second one off!).  I thought seeing Wycliffe would be a great way to close out MET season #6, but because the program was so unconventional, I didn't really know what to expect. 

As it would turn out, this show was quite possibly the most entertaining thing I've ever seen. There was comedy. There was music. There was dancing. There was singing. There was virtuosity. Wycliffe was the music director of the show and he was accompanied by the Temple University Big Band with special guest appearances by several singers, young instrumentalists, and group of dancers and none other than the tap dancing sensation himself, Savion Glover. Watching Wycliffe trade solos with Savion Glover was incredible. The audience was so moved at many points that people stood up to scream and hoot and cheer in the middle of the performances. Unlike many other venues, this enthusiasm was welcome and encouraged, and it seemed to inspire the artists to even greater heights. Now, I know what many of you will say. That's the Apollo Theater. They have a history and tradition of a more outwardly expressive audience. This is true, but I would submit to you that the performances were so completely elevational that even the audiences at Carnegie Hall or Augusta National would be itching in anticipation of an opportunity to shout. 

I truly hope that Wycliffe will put on a show like this again some time soon, and I hope that many of you will get a chance to see something like it. After yet another long season at the MET that concluded with 7 performances of Walkure, one of the most physically draining shows in all of music, Wycliffe's Jazz a la Carte sent me into summer completely charged up about the possibilities available when talent, hard work, inspiration, artistic freedom and a love for people meet. Thanks Wycliffe!!

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