It is difficult to succinctly write about pianist, Jon Davis. He is a raconteur of the keys, an impish leader, a provocateur, a translator, a jazz artist of the highest order, a maker of images and a creator of heavenly sounds. Davis is a gifted composer, a prolific recording artist and has played worldwide with the great musicians of our time.
Davis’ latest offering this night at FAT CAT rendered an innovative and important body of work. Jaco Pastorious, one of music’s most deservedly revered players of the electric bass, gave birth to a style and iconic sound that would define a genre of 1970s and ’80s jazz, R&B and fusion. Davis shared a year on the road with the late Pastorius and joined him on five records including the highly touted, “Standards Zone” on which Davis and Pastorius comprised part of the Brian Melvin Trio. For tonight’s, “A Tribute to the Music of Jaco Pastorius”, Davis has brilliantly arranged and interpreted a vast assortment of the bassist’s compositions.
With Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Ben Perowsky on drums, the trio presented a night that would make Pastorius smile. Whether executing a joyous and playful rendition of “Three Views of A Secret” or gracing us with the ethereal “Portrait of Tracy”, Davis’ arrangements maintain the framework of Pastorius’ compositions while ingeniously breathing a new rhythmic, melodic and harmonic life into these reconceptualizations. Each tune is infused with a life that is uniquely Davis.
Davis’ exchanges with the brilliant Ben Perowsky on drums are exhilarating. Perowsky, a seasoned and rousing musician, displays the seamlessness of Billy Higgins and the spirit of Gene Krupa. His work here, especially on Jaco’s “Dania”, proves there is no better drummer suited for this project.
Bassist Nakamura plays with verve and articulation, most notably on “(Used To Be A) Cha Cha”. He has a deep understanding of the material and displays this ability best on “Havona”. Here, the trio together and separately hit a musical climax that for me was the centerpiece of the evening.
No matter what the material, Davis always discovers a joy and beauty in each piece he plays. His new program tonight is as complex, deep and beautiful as Jaco himself. Each tune sets it’s own fire. And Pastorius would be delighted to have Davis as the keeper of this flame.
Article by Lisa Ellex
Photos by Karen Ryan and Google Images