“These are the last of Dizzy Gillespie’s protegees,” host Maureen Bunyan said at the Lincoln Theatre’s “In the Footsteps of Dizzy” concert Friday night. It was an all-star lineup of musicians who had studied with the great bebop professor.
Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez opened the show with a pointillistic solo of “September in Rio” that evoked a suspenseful Beethoven sonata, though the samba-like rhythm gained momentum as it progressed. Next he presented Ben Street (bass), Adam Cruz (drums), and Pernell Saturnino (congas) for a frenzied “Overjoyed,” Perez developing the refrain of the Stevie Wonder melody and Street exercising some low-down funk.
It only got better from there. Perez introduced three of the greatest living horn players, Claudio Rodito (trumpet), David Sanchez (sax), and Steve Turre (trombone), for a lovely tango that alone was worth the admission. Turre managed not only a languid trombone statement, but played maracas—then began an onslaught on conch shell! Each guest got the spotlight on one tune; Sanchez’ was probably the best, the saxophonist playing a relaxed soulful line before charging into a riff that was also a showdown with the rhythm section. By the time the ensemble reunited for a delirious take on Gillespie’s “Woody ‘n You,” I knew there couldn’t possibly be more music this good.
I was wrong. After intermission, Roy Hargrove brought out his quintet: saxophonist Justin Robinson, pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Danton Boller, and drummer Montez Coleman. At first expectations weren’t great: Hargrove’s one of the ’80s “Young Lions” who were accused of stealing Miles Davis’ ’60s sound, and he seemed to be playing right into that. Not only did they sound like Miles’ group, post-bop with generous avant-garde seasoning, but Hargrove did his best to channel the trumpeter, skulking behind the bandstand and in the shadows when not playing.
Then came a Philly soul-style workout, with a gospel fervor that almost begged for a choir. Clayton’s solo focused intently on the groove, barely even ornamenting it, along with one of the tightest rhythm sections on Earth. Then Hargrove played a cool, spacious, funky solo that quoted the Spinners’ “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” and even danced. Robinson followed with a mellow vibe that ever so slowly wended its way back into the groove. This was an adrenaline rush—and after three more fantastic tunes, it was elation.
Dizzy, your legacy’s in good hands.