Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu and J Hunter
In our last episode, I mentioned that Joel Harrison recorded this knockout take on Gregg Allman’s “Whipping Post” where strings were featured prominently. Christian Howes’ violin was one of those strings, and he played a death-defying solo on that recording that helped Harrison take a southern rock anthem to a totally new place. Although the quintet Howes brought to Jazz at the Lake was called Southern Exposure, he wasn’t planning to reboot the Dixie Dregs, Steve Morse’s vastly under-appreciated country-jazz fusion outfit. Late last year, Howes teamed with world-class accordionist Richard Galliano to record a whip-smart take on “nueva tango,” Astor Piazzola’s answer to the happy marriage of jazz and samba. Although Galliano didn’t make this gig, Howes did bring Victor Prieto, a squeeze-box master in his own right who Howes feels a real kinship with, in that they are two guys who play classical instruments that want to be part of “‘La Real’ – the real jazz music scene!”
“Jazz is a verb,” Howes told us while his bandmates were literally taping their music down to battle the incessant winds off Lake George. “It’s an attitude. It’s a way of being… a way of interacting together in an honest way!” Howes and his partners certainly had the interaction part down as they warmed us up with a glowing mix of originals and new looks at Piazzola (the gorgeous ballad “Oblivion”) and Brazilian icon Ivan Lins (a modern-day version of “Aparecido”). “Tango Doblado” translates to “bent tango,” and Howes’ composition covered both ends of the equation: The opening segment showed clear respect for the Argentinian musical tradition… and then that tradition was shot right towards Jupiter with a soaring exploration led by Howes’ rampant violin and Micah Thomas’ explosive piano. Thomas is only 15 years old, and he already has a sense of lyric that players twice his age will never achieve. Thomas and Prieto helped power Howes’ driving “Cubano Chant,” bringing this opening set to a thunderous close.