REVIEW: Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project at Birmingham Town Hall

Terri Lyne Carrington in Birmingham Town Hall
Photo credit: John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project
(Birmingham Town Hall, 21 May 2017. Review by A J Dehany)

“It’s important to claim new standards,” says Terri Lyne Carrington, the Grammy award-winning drummer who has won a longstanding crossover audience and for over 30 years introduced soul tunes to jazz arrangements and jazz tunes to the deep grooves of soul. How does a song become a standard? Blind luck, good fortune, sheer chance… but a start would be somebody playing the song.

Terri Lyne Carrington’s only UK tour date to a diverse audience at Birmingham Town Hall, part of a two-day residence involving a day of drumming workshops as part of the Jazzlines Women In Jazz programme, was a projective lesson in the attempt to “claim new standards” from an eclectic selection of tunes from contemporary jazz and the classic pop songbook.

The thing about crossing over to a wider audience is you can go to them, but few will cross back over with you. The first hour of the concert was some quite hard jazzer’s jazz. A number of couples leaving I didn’t notice returning. The quartet’s playing is serious, with each player unafraid to take risks: rhythmically tripling up under the main rhythm is a strong suit in both Carrington’s drumming and under the fingers of pianist Helen Sung; and harmonically straying ‘outside’ as in the dextrous soloing of multiple sax player Tineke Postma. Generally the players keep to a strong group discipline.

Carrington’s Sweden sounds like a Wayne Shorter tune, but its restrained tempo is offset by quite busy playing; Carrington has a particular expressiveness on the ride cymbal that carries across her restless imagination. Her Mosaic Triad Part 1 similarly showcases her controlled creativity on the drums. It’s after Geri Allen’s deep cut Unconditional Love that Carrington makes her case for new standards, but continuing with Kenny Barron’s A Voyage we are still deep in jazzer’s jazz territory rather than the souljazz cross-over many have come to hear.

The final half hour of the concert, with vocalist China Moses, is truer to this fresher spirit, and in a sophisticated way. Hendrix’s Burning of the Midnight Lamp’s harpsichord intro is reapportioned into 7/4 time but perfectly recognisable whereas you might not necessarily spot the Beatles’ Michelle, which is also in 7/4 and taking the same approach to the melody: simplified to its bluest notes, the melodic essentials of the memory.

China Moses is a magnetic communicator. Her mother is Dee Dee Bridgewater so, as Carrington says, “the fruit don’t fall far from the tree”. Her self-confident contribution to the reworkings of Hendrix, Al Green, and the Beatles, as well as her own tune Disconnected and a languidly grooving arrangement of the legit standard Lover Man help open the music out into the auditorium. A frustrating concert in some ways, crucially divided between jazz and soul tendencies, but at their finest moments the strong playing of the group and the careful synergies of the arrangements spark an appealing frisson.

LINK: Terri Lyne Carrington interview


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