9:35 PM. The crowd has thinned out a tad in the ol'
"Alive" tent, which is starting to feel like home. At this particular moment,
the two sax dudes in the Charlie Hunter Quartet--David Ellis and Calder
Spanier--are playing dueling saxes, trading off melodic riffs like a pair of
young John Coltranes. Hunter himself, casual in jeans and sweatshirt, is
digging into the groove with his guitar set to a mellow Wes Montgomery-style
tone. Now he's off and running, racing along the highway, so to speak, at like
85 miles an hour, showering the crowd with a torrent of shimmering notes, then,
all at once, stopping on a note, holding it, stopping on another, holding that
one, and then he's back on the road, notes a-flyin'.
Testimony to the power
of the Hunter muse is this guy with the gotee and the knit cap pulled low about
two feet from the stage who is jerkin' like he's having an epeleptic fit, only
totally in time to the music. You can see him from about a block away 'cause
he's got one of those flourescent organge plastic dog collars around his neck.
In fact, these luminous collars are quite the rage tonight; I spy three or four
more worn by members of this jazzbo crowd.
As I'm about to notate more of
my deep perceptions of the Hunter performance, I'm interrupted by a young woman
wearing a leather motorcycle jacket who wants to know why I'm doing something
ridiculous like writing in a small notebook while a great musician like Charlie
Hunter is performing. "We're posting reports on the Apple web site," I shout.
She starts laughing. "My little brother is probably on-line reading it
right now," she says, before drifting back to her boyfriend.
Able to once
again focus on what's going on, I jnote that berets have suddenly become all
the rage here in the "Alive" tent. Actually, it appears that most of the
tuxedos have vanished, replaced by a pseudo-boho crowd that seems to have
materialized specifically to fit the '50s Beat vibe that Hunter is
I could go on about the harmonic congruence of the sax players
efforts. Or devote many, many graphs to the philosophy of improvization as
articulated by Hunter and company. The lyrical, yet challenging post-bop
grooviology... But the thing is, sometimes this virtual stuff just doesn't
quite take you there. And tonight, you really had to be there, standing on the
slopping, grass-covered hill, shoulder to shoulder with gyrating jazzbos,
beneath a canvas roof, staring at these outstanding musicians as they delivered
one cool song after another. Just for the record, the set included "Dersu,"
"Sutton," Tea Baggin'," "Ashyby Man," "Thursday the 12th," and "911."
Aimee Spanier, managing editor of Addicted To Noise and jazz afficianado said
as I passed her on my way out of the tent, "It was worth coming up from Santa
Cruz just to see this." So you know it was a great set.
And, no, I didn't
write this one from the bar.