Report: Charles McPherson and "balance in everything"

Charles McPherson, Pizza Express Dean Street Feb 2014
Photo Credit: Melody McLaren. All Rights Reserved

Sebastian writes:

I headed down for the first set of the second night of alto saxophonist and long-time Mingus sideman Charles McPherson's residency at Pizza Express. Afterwards, the musicians asked me if I had thought that the balance was OK. I'm no expert, to me it had sounded fine, I said. Luc at the Pizza does a very good job, (and is rumoured to be about to get a new sound system?)

I feel that conversations like this afterwards with musicians disqualify me from reviewing. But McPherson is indeed every bit as good and as authoritative as Jack Massarik explains in his five star review. 

The question about balance stayed with me. In the first place these are musicians who sense the right level, when to support, when to step forward and become the lead voice. Pianist  Bruce Barth has a superhuman command of the volume level to play at for each and every context. Jeremy Brown is completely balanced physically on the instrument, his time is unbelievable, and he plays impeccably in tune. And the drums surely cannot be played unless you are in balance, which Stephen Keogh certainly is.

Then, later, when I saw Melody McLaren's photo of the band, below, it made me think the question might go deeper still. It reminded me that a jazz musician had written on Facebook earlier this week.

"Isn't it funny. When you pick up your instrument everything goes away, and you feel a serene balance in everything." 

Melody McLaren's picture of the quartet (below) definitely captures something of the spirit of that. There is, absolutely, an inner balance and serenity in what these musicians do. It's also in the ethos of the courses run by the Global Music Foundation, where the day starts with an hour of Tai Chi.

Charles MacPherson (Missouri-Detroit-New York - San Diego) is a legend of the music, the others described to me the feeling of fulfilment that playing with him gave them. Even Bruce Barth (California- New York), who had never played with him before this week, talked about the privilege of sharing a stage with him. McPherson constructs a set well, flowing from familiar to unfamiliar, and the tunes are contoured, almost explained as he plays them. There's clarity of thought in his playing, and in his conversation. For 74 he is astonishingly positive, sprightly, inspiring.

One quibble. The start time for the first house - 6.30pm , yes you read that right - will take quite some getting used to, and the audience that had assembled, though attentive, responsive, was quite thin. The second house starting at 9pm was sold out. There must be a message there.

Bruce Barth, Charles McPherson, Jeremy Brown, Stephen eogh
Pizza Express Dean Street Feb 2014
Photo Credit: Melody McLaren. All Rights Reserved

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