We had taken friends to see Toshi, Reinhardt and Jon, with the added treat of knowing that Geli (Angelica) Wuerzner was going to be there. Geli is a versatile violinist who knows how to listen and when to speak. She was visiting from Seattle and we were privileged to hear her play with Toshi's Trio.
The set opened with Go With the Flow and this certainly must be bassist Jon Hughes' theme song by now as it is required of him week after week. The song begins gently and then becomes laid-back romp. Our dear friends who accompanied us were taken right away. And who wouldn't be? The piece highlights the vituosity of all three musicians and is well-named because that is all that is left the listener--just go with the flow.
Moliendo Cafe follows next with its punchy opening that expands into a truly intriguing work of alternating rhythms and cut-current melodies. Drummer Reinhardt Melz is allowed great room for percussive exploration and he never leads one astray.
In fact, Jon Hughes has said that he has worked with drummers who departed from the rhythm because they were lost. "But with Reinhardt," he says, "you just follow him because he is never lost."
From the sturm und drang of Moliendo Cafe, the mood retreated to the pastoral feel of Banfa's Gentle Rain. It is one of the most easy-going pieces of the set list. It is reflective and sentimental, in a good way. But the finale is a raucous wind-up which settles back to a slow, cool conclusion.
On the article of May 13, I wrote the following:
"But the most intriguing moment of the day came with the bossa nova standard Agua de Beber. When Toshi called the tune, Reinhardt opened with a totally unexpected beat and Toshi excitedly said, "Yeah! Let's go wtih that!" Reinhardt cocked his head and said , "Really?" Toshi was convinced that Reinhardt was on to something. And he was right.
This groove was the rhythm to top all rhythms. This funky-meter pattern was intoxicating. You wanted more and you didn't care what the results were. Toshi and Jon were onboard all the way. Composer Tom Jobim could never have envisioned this! Jobim's bossa nova had run headlong into a Robert Glasper groove and Agua de Beber will never sound the same."
I am happy to say that such is the case. When the trio played the piece again this week, it was with the now-entrenched "Glasper beat." It was as breathtaking as the first time I heard it.
The first set concluded with Black Orpheus which just never gets old. In fact, it is not allowed to age because Toshi, Reinhardt and Jon keep changing it up from week to week, creating a new song every time. This week Toshi added the palmas to Reinhardt's brilliant solo. The rhythms created by Reinhardt are like your heartbeat if you are running through the lightning while being chased by a tiger.
The first set ended with everyone present definitely wanting more. Our friends were wide-eyed. We had told them that they would enjoy themselves but they had no idea just how far over the moon they would be taken.
She is funny, she is smart and she knows how to move within the structure of the music. She has great harmonic intuition that can take a song unknown to her and make it sound as if she has played it for years. She did it again for the 6/8 Blue Bossa and she repeated it all evening long.
When Blue Bossa concluded, Jon called for Dust in the Wind which brought guffaws from the audience. Fortunately, that was not what followed.
Toshi encourages with words and with his music.
One of our friends was tired when we arrived and we were not sure if she would be up to staying for the whole three hours. By the end of the second set, she had renewed energy and announced that we were going nowhere.
The Andalusian 6/8 Improvisation was so fascinating that even the comatose could find enough energy to stay on. The mighty groove of the improv found Reinhardt and Toshi in complete cooperation with Reinhardt's drumming and Toshi's thumping on the guitar's body. Intoxicating.
The applause was thunderous.
The old standard Besame Mucho slowed everyone's heart-rate down and Bitter Smile was a fine set-up for the evening's finale.
You have read it from me over and over. Light in Shade is just amazing. Happily, it will be on Toshi's next CD. He has just begun recording it and already I cannot wait. I have never had a piece of music so easily move me. Before now, it was the YES song Awaken that had that claim on me. While both songs are introspective and emotional, Light in Shade is purely instumental without the interpretation of lyrics.
It is like a long gaze into a clear pool of water. On the surface is one's own reflection, but looking past that, one can see straight to the bottom with all the wonders so clear for observation. That is the light in the shade--to see what is usually obscure, especially to ourselves.
Toshi, Reinhardt and Jon create just such an environment, that we can see beyond what is on the surface and look to the truth that is so deep within ourselves.
One cannot hear the music of Toshi Onizuka and remain unchanged.