Sunday, January 06, 2008

Nicholas Sanders Trio at Snug Harbor

Although I lack in sleep, am tired from interviewing job candidates for our Institute, and need to take a flight in the morning the following day, I insist on going to a jazz club before leaving New Orleans. After having dinner with my colleagues and being told that they go back to the hotel, I walk to Snug Harbor on my own.

Time Out says there are two best contemporary jazz clubs in the town. One of them appears to be closed down as its official website address takes me to a porn website. The other, Snug Harbor, looks very professional: the website says, "We are not a disco. Do not speak. Do not take photo during the performance."

After a 30-minute pleasant walk through Royal Street in the French Quarter from my hotel, I arrive at Snug Harbor. The walls, the ceiling, and the floor are all made of old wood, looking slightly decrepit but in a pleasant and stylish way. The street it faces seems to be a jazz club street: there are two more jazz clubs here. When I enter, on the left spreads a dinning space, on the right a bar space. The doorman tells me, "For the music, walk in the bar to the end." Paying 12 dollars, I enter the music room.

A little cozy space has a stage just enough for three pieces (piano, bass, and drums) with several tables on the ground floor and on the balcony. The capacity doesn't seem to exceed 100. I take a seat on the balcony from which I can see all the three pieces at one glance. Some youngsters are hanging around the piano on the stage for a while, apparently discussing which piano phrase is cool. They look reserved and devoted with their thin physique suggesting some sort of stoicism, very different from ordinary youngsters in the English-speaking countries.

The performance begins slightly after 10pm. After the introduction by the club owner(?), the pianist, the bassist, and the drummer walk up to the stage. They are among those youngsters hanging around on the stage before.

From the very first tune, the trio impresses me to the extreme. Each of them, especially the pianist and the drummer, is amazingly skillful for their age. The pianist's right and left hands sound like different two individuals. The drummer, when he plays solo, maintains the rhythm in each part of the solo, something I never experienced before for a drum solo. Each of them plays independently, claiming their own presence without sacrificing the others'. The balance between individualism and harmony is maintained at the level where only a very minor deviation by any of the three players destroys it. And the three deliver the sheer energy of youth. It's contemporary jazz. It's not easy to understand. It's abstract. But I do feel the harmony, the rhythm, and the melody. I never felt this way before when I listened to jazz.

The trio plays about 8 tunes. Not a single tune bores me. They even play a fantastic mellow tune in the middle. Although the trio's strength appears to be uplifting pieces of music, they are versatile. The only caveat to me is the bass. His sound often sinks between the two expressive sounds of the piano and the drums. But towards the end of the performance, the bassist stands on par with the other two.

The trio's name is Nicholas Sanders Trio: Nicholas Sanders on piano, Max Moran on bass, and Joe Dyson on drums. I really want a CD that records their live performance.

Just popping up at a jazz club on Sunday night takes me to such a high level of jazz performance in New Orleans. I'm awed by the town's ability to churn out great jazz talents almost a century after the beginning of jazz.

No comments: