Bassist Rodney Whitaker returns to lead an all-star, Mack Avenue Records line-up in the third Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival — 2014.
Three years ago at the Detroit Jazz Festival, the first SuperBand came together onstage, with exciting new Mack Avenue recording artists like jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianist Alfredo Rodríguez, grouped with veterans Kevin Eubanks on guitar, Gary Burton (vibes), Sean Jones (trumpet), Evan Perri (guitar), and Tia Fuller (alto). The “house band” consisted of tremendous contemporary jazz influences: musical director/bassist Rodney Whitaker, pianist Aaron Diehl, and drummer Carl Allen.
That 2012 debut sparked an idea for a live album, then another, one every year. The tradition continued, and now it’s 2015, time for the live 2014 album. Whitaker’s back leading the charge with his rhythm section — Diehl, Allen, and guitarist Evan Perri (Hot Club of Detroit) — and the full force of talents Warren Wolf (vibes), Kirk Whalum (tenor), and a returning Fuller (alto, soprano), who took a break in between live albums.
The aim for every live performance captured on record is to offer the audience a taste of various styles, gypsy jazz influences, to hardcore, R&B-influenced be bop and post-bop, to a light sprinkling of contemporary, earthy smooth jazz. Since this is a Mack Avenue SuperBand, the diversity makes sense. The Detroit-based music label’s been a force at the festival every year, providing unprecedented access for fans and artists during and after performances.
“The SuperBand has always been and will always be a mix of veteran players and top younger talent, which really represents the Mack Avenue roster,” Denny Stilwell, the record label president, said in a DL Media release. “When you look at this particular line-up, there are a wide range of styles represented: from the Django-influenced guitar approach of Evan Perri to the soulful/gospel leanings of tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum, and when you consider the other players, you can find just about everything in between. And each of them are bringing performing and writing chops that are top shelf.”
The live album captures both the group dynamic, with a mix of artists that may never come together again, or as often, and the resulting music they make together in the moment. The music they make is a revelation, and as close to the live experience as you will get — for those who can’t make the Detroit Jazz Festival.
In this year’s September 18th release, “A Mother’s Cry” featuring Rodney Whitaker shines, embracing both the unconditional love and the expressive joy in the music that blends more than isolates. This musicians serve the soul of the song over themselves in any notably flashy appearances. It’s as if they fold into one another, finishing subconscious sentences, until there is only the music not the musicians.
The members of the all-star SuperBand submitted original tunes for the collective live effort. All but one, Herbie Hancock’s “Riot,” were written by Warren Wolf (“The Struggle”), Rodney Whitaker (“A Mother’s Cry”), Aaron Diehl (“Santa Maria”), Evan Perri (“For Stephane”), and Kirk Whalum (“Bipolar Blues Blues”).