Flautist and soprano saxophonist Jane Bunnett had a smile on her face through much of Thursday night’s performance at Thompson House, and for good reasons.
Being accompanied by superb musicians has to feel good, and on both sides of her were masters: Hilario Duran on piano, and the legendary Candido on congas. Plus it was clear though her playing and her between-song comments that she loved playing Afro-Cuban jazz.
There was also the intangible factor of “the Sanctuary,” i.e. the intimate upstairs room of the Thompson House. As Bunnett stated more than once during the performance, the room had a great vibe, and it didn’t hurt that it was close to filled through both sets.
She also expressed gratitude to soundman Shawn Marsh for a clean, perfectly-balanced mix.
The music consisted primarily of Cuban jazz dating back as far as the early twentieth century. Hearing it in such a stripped-down setting helped clarify what was so special about the Cuban musical tradition. Pianist Hilario Duran had technique to burn, but he used a light touch, so that every nuance came through, and there were many. Bunnett’s playing on flute and soprano grew more fiery as the evening went on, and this was definitely one of those jazz concerts where during the second set the band kicked things up a notch.
The rock star of the evening kept a low profile until it came time to perform “Conga Jam,” at which point Candido charmed the socks off the audience, pretending to end the song almost as soon as it began, interspersing in bits and pieces a mini-Candido history, throwing some crowd participation into the mix, and engaging in technical devilry just long enough to let you know that for him pyrotechnics weren’t nothing.
I videotaped one full song from the concert as well as a fragment that, when Candido launched into a chant without warning, had me grabbing my camera and filming what I could. Candido’s performance sparked memories of the one time I was able to see the percussionist Armando Peraza in an intimate setting (a 1983 Santana show that took place at Bogart’s). Throughout that show—and particularly during his bongo solo on “Gypsy Queen” and a solo conga performance where, like Candido, he playfully wooed the crowd—you felt a spirit that travels back centuries. Here’s Candido’s chant:
The Album Cover
Before the show I asked Candido to sign a Sonny Rollins record that features Candido on a couple cuts, including a tremendous trio piece with Sonny on tenor and Bob Cranshaw on bass. Candido remembered the session clearly, and our conversation caught Jane Bunnett’s interest, for she had yet to hear this 1962 collaboration. Between sets she gave me her card so that I could send her a link to the song. Hopefully we’ll stay in touch, because as a music writer I’m sometimes in a position to highlight deserving musicians, and not only is Jane a fine player, she’s also carved out her own territory.
Here’s Jane’s website: http://www.janebunnett.com/
And here’s a picture of the album cover Candido signed:
And as long as we’re looking at Sonny Rollins album covers, I figured I’d snap a photo of this record that the world’s baddest tenor player signed during the previous millennium:
And here’s “Jungoso,” the song Candido performed with Sonny back in 1962:
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Finally, here’s one other cut from Thursday’s performance (talk about sweet):