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Review of "Stolen Moments: One Hundred Years of Jazz"
This review of Friday night's Lied Center performance comes from Chuck Berg, a KU professor of theater and film.Opening with the question “What is Jazz?,” the New York City-based JazzReach production of “Stolen Moments: The First One Hundred Years of Jazz,” which was Friday at the Lied Center, provided a collage of responses in a video montage including contemporary jazz stars Josh Redman, Greg Osby and Regina Carter plus jazz critics Gary Giddins and Stanley Crouch. As framed by such experts, it was suggested that jazz was a trope for democracy with its dynamic interplay between individual soloists and supportive rhythm section communities. Jazz as a means of spanning American as well as global cultural, ethnic, gender, economic and social differences was another potent theme.As the cinematic overture faded, the players were led on stage by tenorman Keith Loftis intoning a melodic-rhythmic motif that segued into a spirited reading of Joshua Redman’s “Last Rites of Rock & Roll,” an edgy, post-bop canvas splashed with daring colors and lines reminiscent of the splatter paintings of Jackson Pollack.Giving vivid life to a streamlined script penned by drummer/JazzReach founder Ben Schuman, Beresford Bennett gave voice to a selection of historical highlights with pell-mell paced “captions” of the music’s great men, periods and styles.Combined with the sextet’s masterly readings of classics ranging from Jelly Roll Morton’s “The Chant” to avant-gardist Ornette Coleman’s “Blues Connotation,” and a beautifully produced stream of visuals (archival film clips, publicity stills and landmark album covers), Schuman’s script provided the backbeat which held and propelled the show’s diverse elements ever forward.Throughout the evening, a crowd of some 800 music fans came together as one, cheering the soloists and applauding each tune. Particular favorites included KC icons Count Basie’s “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” and Charlie Parker’s “Shaw ’Nuff.” Although billed as the Metta Quintet, it was, in fact, the Metta Sextet. With its front line of alto, trumpet and tenor sax, and its rhythm section of piano, bass and drums, it was a muscular little/big band that floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.Inhabiting the contrasting historical styles with loving and authentic care while at the same time retaining their own individual “voices,” Metta’s band of brothers impressed at every turn with their seemingly effortless shifts from the traditional to the modern. For jazz neophytes “Stolen Moments” was a sampler of the medium’s diverse pleasures. For veteran jazz lovers, it was a trip down memory lane and, significantly, a testament to the power of authentic jazz players to re-inscribe the old with the new.