Issue #444: May 30, 2002
MUSIC
AHEAD OF THE BEAT
by Peter North

Making history: Trio floored the fans whoíve seen it all.

When it comes time to look back on what happened in this town in terms of musical events at the end of the year, the past week should get some serious attention.

The buzz that had been building over the course of the last two weeks surrounding the impeding visit of Quantum turned out to be more than justified as the trio of master musicians turned in two jaw-dropping performances in the jammed-to-the-rafters Yardbird Suite.

The monstrous rhythm section of Airto Moreira and Alphonso Johnson and guitarist Prasanna held audiences spellbound each night over the course of two sets that encapsulated each musicianís brilliance as soloist, improviser and ensemble player.

With Moreira on traps, it was like the resurrection of Art Blakey had taken place, thanks to his incredibly fluid yet flexible attack, which was coupled with many exotic percussive instruments that he shook, rattled, knocked and banged.

One of the recurring comments heard following the first show was directed at Johnson, the onetime member of Weather Report and Santana, who is currently a pivotal member of Jazz Is Dead, a quartet that takes aim at Grateful Dead compositions and wraps them in jazz fusion arrangements. Many observes felt Johnson dished out a single greatest electric bass performance ever witnessed in this city and itís pretty hard to disagree.

This fan was so swept away by the extraordinary interplay and the joyous nature of the majority of the pieces that the concept of time went out the window during the first set on Friday evening. It could have been 35 minutes or three hours, but a glance at the watch confirmed it was just over 90 minutes. At $23.50 a pop, everyone in attendance had received more than his or her moneyís worth halfway through the night.

And just to put the icing on the cake, Moreira took the time between the final two pieces of the set to make mention of his old friend Gaye Delorme, with whom he worked in the early and mid Ď70s in both New York City and California. The two havenít crossed paths in the number of years, but Moreira let it be known that time hasnít changed how he feels about the guitarist and ex-Edmontonian who was sitting front row centre on his night off between gigs here and in Calgary.

Many thanks to all the folks at the Suite and those with Raga Mala Society who made this gig happen. Itís not just a hard act to follow Ė this was one that is virtually impossible to match.