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May 14, 2011

Recap: Benny Golson Live At Jimmy Maks

I was on the fence for this show for awhile. I couldn't believe Benny Golson was going to be playing Portland's Jimmy Mak's and I wasn't sure I had the time or monetary expenditure to make it. Before I knew it, Wednesday the 11th came and I said f*** it! If I didn't go I'd regret it.

Glad I did, it was a mere $20 a head at the door to get in. We risked not having advanced tickets and table reservations -- but we got in, and we got a great spot in the upper level just in time as that place filled up. Although we had to uncomfortable stand on our tippy toes to lean over the banister to get a good view, I couldn't help but feel like the main character, Francis, from 'Round Midnight when he was listening to Dexter Gordon from outside the Jazz club at the beginning of the film.

The Jazz Messengers was such a driving force for me when I first started listening to Jazz. I must of listened to Moanin' from start to finish nearly every day for the first few months that I owned it. Golson single handedly shaped the Jazz Messengers as their art and musical director. Bringing in the Philly talent, emphasizing original tunes, and the generating that overall formal aesthetic of the group. In his short year with Art Blakey, he really laid the ground work for the rest of the Jazz Messengers existence.

On Wednesday night, Benny played with Mel Brown's Quartet. Consisting of Brown on drums, Tony Pacini on piano, Dan Balmer on guitar, and Ted Bennet on bass, this is probably one of the most swinging bands in town, and if it weren't for the era we're in today, these four musicians would be world famous stars.

Highlights for the evening were the rich stories Benny told in between numbers -- Stories of how he met Coltrane and the two of them in their teenage years back in Philadelphia; how he came to write the haunting ballad, and heavily recorded I Remember Clifford. And the musical highlights by the collective included I Remember Clifford, Coltrane's Mr. PC, Along Came Betty, and everyone's favorite Strayhorn tune Take The A Trane.

The evening was filled with hard bop standards that were played to near perfection. I've never seen anyone quite like Golson who could improvise and solo with such ease, proficiency, and elegance. He definitely bridges the gap between bebop and simplified melodies focusing on terrific harmonics. Honestly, any words I try to muscle up won't do justice. I'll just leave you with the below photos that I took with my iPhone.