Which brings us, finally, to Sunday. First: full disclosure. I have never made it to Bear Creek Sunday night. And I know what you’re thinking: IDIOT! Missing the Dumpstaphunk and Lettuce rave-ups is a BIG mistake. The problem is this: missing two days of a school as a teacher is difficult; missing three days is exponentially worse. I don’t want to miss Thursday, that’s for certain. I need to retire. This job thing keeps getting in the way (read: Jam Cruise).
Sunday morning started early, as Eugene Snowden and his band of madmen (and women), the Legendary JCs (Joint Chiefs), kicked out the soul gospel jams with “I’ll Fly Away > Save Me > New Man > Lifted Me.” Took us all to church. Eugene is an incredible frontman who… [I was going to make an age-ist comment. Not necessary. Just incredible.]. The JCs also feature Clay Watson on trombone, a BC artist-at-large, and great vocals from Katie Burkess. [Watson, by the way, also has another new collective: Paddington Ambush. Check ‘em out!]
I was focused on Skerik’s Orchestra At Large. I’m not sure where I put Skerik in the saxophone hierarchy before this show, but I certainly know now. I have hundreds of records by Coltrane, Dolphy, Bird and others, so I know what I like. And Skerik belongs in the conversation. The set started off with Skerik on solo tenor, incorporating sounds and reverberations from his sax mike. He was joined by Dead Kenny Gs/ Garage A Trois bandmate Mike Dillon on traps, and it started to explode. It appeared that Freekbass was going to start on bass, but he courteously let the senior statesman, George Porter, Jr., step up instead. I’ve seen George lots of times, but this one was, for me, legendary. What started as sort of Afropop (I have not listened to the download yet) continued to grow and expand into this 40+minute extravaganza, as a slew of horn players paraded on stage. Then Freekbass came out, and more insanity ensued. It was stunning.
Although I definitely wanted to make it to the Gospel Surprise, I could not imagine what could still grab what was left of my brain. I spoke earlier about seeing a band or performer before but not REALLY listening. Shame on me. Again. I have SEEN Jennifer Hartswick before, but apparently I had not REALLY listened. I love her trumpet playing, but what a spectacular set of pipes she has! She is one of the best female singers I have ever heard. Her set Sunday, like Friday’s, featured original tunes and massive covers. My favorites were Jennifer Paige’s “Crush” (WOW) and Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” (WOW squared). I guess I just needed a bigger 2×4 to the head.
With everything packed up and ready to head back to Tampa, I walked one last time down to the Amphitheatre to see the grinning tandem of Roosevelt Collier and Nigel Hall (and their bandmates). These guys popped up so many places I am convinced there must be underground tunnels somewhere. When you start with “Standing on Shaky Ground,” how you gonna lose? It was deluxe, perfect for this late-afternoon set that covered “Higher Ground” (a Hall specialty), “Uncle Remus” (the George Duke-Frank Zappa collaboration), and “Spirit in the Dark.” AMEN.
It got me home, safe and sound. Music, friends, the park, the weather. That’s close enough to planet alignment for me.
So I’m thinking. How can Paul Levine and friends POSSIBLY top that? I know just one thing: Only a fool would bet against him!