Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio impresses at Anthology

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 10:01
Posted in category Concert Reviews, In the News, Past Shows
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by CHASE PADO | The Poway High School Iliad

As I ventured downtown for my much-needed dose of jazz culture, I again found myself in the fine-tuned atmosphere of Anthology. The venue presented its classic impressions upon me, and every element, from the grandeur of the entrance to the stylish dishware, significantly contributed to my feeling of content.

After scraping down the final scraps of a delicious meal, I remained satisfied. The background music was cool and classy, and the vibraphone gently melted my stress away. I was ready for a typical Anthology evening of relaxing, easy-going jazz from a renowned group, Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio.

When the doctor came on stage, my excitement was hardly augmented. The band played a simple rhythm with curious textures of synthesized strings and synthetic drum sounds. Although I was enjoying the music, it was incredibly subtle and simplistic, and a continuance of such structure for multiple hours would result in intolerable amounts of anxiety.

Only five minutes in, I reached an apex of excitement, not only because my entrée had arrived, but also because of the sudden transformation of the music. The subtle organ that had previously been stressing me out was suddenly screaming with incredible exhilaration. The whispering drums grew to a bang as the smooth guitar suddenly erupted with distortion. Through that song, I realized the genius ideals that Smith and the band had been cleverly presenting to me all along.

The band utilized the elements of tension and fear, along with tone and volume to create an incredible feeling of surprise and excitement. Without break, the band transitioned into an upbeat tune with incredible guitar and organ solos.

Such a change was dramatic, and as the style transitioned from a cool blues that simulated Miles Davis’s tone to “Beehive,” an incredibly fast, unique portrayal of buzzing insects, I realized the musicality of this group was well beyond the retrospective of the average band.

Smith’s refusal to simply start a swing chart without presenting his own twist was also refreshing. His interpretation of “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was” delivered a much-needed departure from the typicality of such tunes. However, his unique approach was not at all a hindrance to the tunes, but an inspirational expansion of ideals.

In the band’s encore, I was amazed by the transformation of Smith and the band. The quiet, tense elements had progressed into an incredibly new performance. The quietly calm figure’s stage presence was comparable to that of Elton John, despite his modest approach. Smith’s love of music was evident through his expressions, singing his solos and smiling more and more widely with every note.

I departed in a state of confusion. The combined elements of the trio’s performance were seemingly revolutionary. The contradictory essences of time, tone and dynamics constructed a complete departure from the normality that we assume to be jazz or pop music.

The band represents a refreshing edge to music. In a world plagued by monotonous tempos and dynamics, the trio is different. I haven’t witnessed such a dramatic use of moods in any form besides the classical portrayals in movie soundtracks. I was relieved to find that an artist could create such an emotional response.

From the sense of fear and anxiety in the beginning of the performance to the total elation produced from the incredible blues tones of the B3 organ in the encore, the doctor had purposely implanted each of these moods into the hearts and minds of the audience members. Smith is an architect of feelings, and his concert was an incredible example of his revolutionary work.

As I look to the future critique of other bands and works, I have been reminded of the essential essences of musicality through such dramatic devices as dynamics. Too often we expect our music to blast through the speakers at a constant level. It was a relief to experience intense emotions through dramatic changes of dynamics that have only been understand by a select few, such as Queen and Beethoven. I hope that these nuances can be developed further in music to create more depth, emotion, and intensity in our music.

I sincerely enjoyed the Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio’s ability to create such passion and vigor and I will certainly jump at any opportunity to see them again.

Via The Poway High School Iliad