Concert a pleasant surprise - Sting's new band pops up with jazz...
Sting and his gang of merry jazzers pulled off Tuesday night something rarely seen in Northeast Ohio: they made thousands of pop fans scream for skintight funky fusion and electric blues at Blossom Music Centre.
You usually don't hear music like this outside the close quarters of small clubs, unless maybe the JVJ (Kool) Jazz Festival is in town, and that takes a slew of headliners to pack 'em in.
It wasn't a jazz concert, and the band didn't play fusion or blues to the exclusion of the pop stuff. Sting and company pleased the old Police fans with renditions of Police tunes like 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Roxanne'. They fulfilled obligations by playing the Police-like pop hits 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'Fortress Around Your Heart' from Sting's solo album, 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles'.
The fashionable new wavish audience lapped up the hits of course. But the brightest moments in the concert, when the most energy seemed to flow out into the cheering crowd, came when the group was playing stuff that sounded like a cross between Weather Report, Prince (at his jazziest, like the live version of 'I Would Die 4 U'), and Miles Davis.
That style came out most strongly on 'World Running Down' from the 'Zenyatta Mondatta' album. The tune was transformed from the pre-'Synchronicity' Police sound, a little raw and sparse, to something beyond anything the Police could have done. They just didn't have the feel for a groove this band locks into.
Sting put this band together, he has said on his solo album's cover, to try a mixture of pop and jazz which would take the two forms out beyond the the limitations of each. With saxman Branford Marsalis and keyboardist Kenny Kirkland, who play with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis' straight-ahead acoustic jazz group, Miles Davis bassist Darryl Jones, and Weather Report drummer Omar Hakim, Sting promised to invent some new form.
Then they started playing 'If You Love Somebody' on the radio, and it sounded like the Police with back up players. Catchy tune, but very predictable.
After hearing this band cook on some of the newer tunes you don't hear on the airwaves, though, it sounds like Sting has kept his promise. This is not the Police, and if he can keep it together, the spiky-haired singer-songwriter may have a vehicle to bring high-quality jazz music to the mass public.
(c) The Chronicle-Telegram by Gavin Smith
Sting puts jazzy mark on Blossom...
His real name is Gordon Sumner. But everybody just calls him Sting. These days they're calling him often, too. And with good reason.
The 33-year-old British musician and actor (he's appeared in several films, including the current 'The Bride') who hit the bigs about four years ago with his band, the Police, is soloing this summer and creating quite a buzz.
Surrounded by a distinguished cast including saxophonist Branford Marsalis (brother of Wynton), keyboardist Kenny Kirkland, bassist Darryl Jones, vocalists Dollette McDonald and Janice Pendarvis and the peerless drumming of Omar Hakim, Sting, at least temporarily, has abandoned his rock'n'roll roots for progressive jazz stylings.
The results are dazzling. Tuesday, in his Blossom Music Center debut, the bright-eyed, fair-haired boy, who resembles Jimmy Connors and actor Malcolm McDowell, put together a powerful, two-hour, 20-tune set that was nothing short of sensational.
With the exception of a white staircase that stretched nearly the width of the stage, the performance offered little in the way of elaborate props, lighting or special effects.
In baggy white trousers, sneakers and a denim jacket, Sting didn't look very special, either. The music, however, was special enough.
Although it may not be quite as accessible as the reggae-inflected pop-rock that carried him to the top of the charts with the Police, it is loaded with depth, energy and emotion and presented in such epic fashion that it is all but irresistible - at least for those willing to take the time to properly digest it.
Such tunes as 'We Work the Black Seam', a rather deep number about coal strikes in England that's featured on his 'Dream of the Blue Turtles' solo LP, are hardly bubblegum.
Neither are 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', a haunting little gem about a vampire, 'Children's Crusade' and a lengthy 'One World/Love Is the Seventh Wave' combo.
But not everything was quite so esoteric. Jazzed-up versions of such Police hits as 'Every Breath You Take', 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Roxanne', along with his solo hits, including the wildly exhilarating 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', gave middle-of-the-roaders plenty to shout about, too. So did bouncy versions of 'Bring on the Night', 'Fortress Around Your Heart' and a superbly played 'Another Day'.
But without doubt, the evening's centrepiece was a devastating version of 'I Burn for You' that fairly ignited the crowd of about 8,000. From Marsalis' searing alto sax licks, through Hakim's relentless, incendiary drumming, the tune seemed locked in an ever-accelerating upward swirl that threatened to lift the roof off the pavilion.
Sting had stung.
(c) The Akron Beacon Journal by Mark Faris