Carmen Lundy and her all-star band, featuring the incredible Bobby Watson on alto sax, Robert Glasper on piano, her brother Curtis Lundy on contrabass, Jason Brown on drumset, Phil Upchurch on guitar, tonight was bittersweet. Funny, when I walked in and sat down, the music, especially Glasper's solo moved me to tears...Lundy standing still, swaying to his dancing fingers...other band members gazing at one another -- the ensemble charged because Glasper was charged...all of them plugged into the same socket.
So, I'm sitting there, almost within touching distance of the brother on guitar, his turquoise and silver accessories gleaming as our feet danced to the same drumbeat, wondering why I'm feeling this meloncholy. Was it the wistful song about love lost and promises hoped for.... Something to Believe In?
When Lundy dedicated a song to John Hicks, the wonderful pianist who died Tuesday, May 9, it all made sense. How could he die before I got a chance to interview him? How could he die before I had a chance to tell him how much I loved his work...say it again that is.
Hicks, a great friend of violinst Billy Bang, is featured on Bang's album, Vietnam: The Aftermath. All the musicans are Vietnam veterans. Curtis Lundy is also on the album.
Hicks' death made me tick off the names of other pianists I enjoyed like the late Tommy Flanagan. I didn't want to think about musician friends in frail heath, but I couldn't help myself...death exposes what's important to life -- remembrance and time.
Afrasia began with a wonderful percussion jam session featuring Sister Mayra Casales, who is working on a solo venture to be released soon. I last heard Casales with Regina Carter...the band was hot!
In another selection Lundy set Langston Hughes' I've know Rivers to music on One More River to Cross.
Slender, and not at tall as she looks from the stage, but taller than me, Lundy was jamming so hard on one tune, I just expected her to start dancing the rumba...her gestures suggesting such. In rhinestone covered slippers, Bobby Watson coming out of his shoes by the end of the set, Lundy was relaxed...singing songs from her lastest double CD, Jazz and the New Songbook, the lovely Old Friend dedicated to John Hicks on disc 2.
The rocking Vu Ja De closed the evening.
I can't believe I won't see Hicks anymore. It was always such a pleasant surprise to see him on stage. "Born in Atlanta on December 21st 1942, pianist John Hicks spent his early childhood in Los Angeles. He began piano lessons with his mother at age 6, and by the time his family moved to stowaway (John was 13), he was already playing for the choir and for Sunday School at the church where the senior Hicks was minister.
"In High School new musical challenges and influences were brought to the fore, he became active in the band and choir and some of his schoolmates were Phillip Wilson and Lester Bowie. Hicks next attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri and Berklee College of Music in Boston before moving to New York in the early 1960's. There he began working with Art Blakey, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Woody Herman and others."
I guess Lundy's news isn't widely known yet, no information about Hicks departure was not in any newspapers on-line.
"The audience with Betty Carter" with Betty Carter, Verve 314-591851-2
"Journey to the One" with Pharoah Sanders, Evidence ECD-22016
"Morning Song" with David Murray, Black Saint 120075-2
"Sketches of Tokyo", DIW 812
"Beyond Expectations", Reservoir RSR CD 130
From http://www.jazzcanadiana.on.ca/_HICKS.htm (May 11, 2006)
Photo: Carmen and Curtis Lundy after the second set, May 11, 2006. Credit: Wanda Sabir.