by Matt Bauer
Having brought such esteemed acts as Atlantic Starr, Unlimited Touch and Loose Ends to the Queen City, promoter Eric Martin has organized more than a few memorable shows. Yet as he told the crowd at the second weekend of the 33rd annual Pine Grill Jazz Reunion at Martin Luther King Park this Sunday, it was the most special show he’d produced. And from the looks of the 5,000 plus who basked in the summer sun, the vibe definitely felt mutual.
The first Sunday already saw powerhouse performances from Marsha McWilson, and Terrence Tee Nyce Warren setting the bar high for the next Sunday’s artists. Following a stirring tribute to the Jefferson Ten, Jukebox, Next Level, D’Mott, Intuition and The All-Star Band all delivered stand-out sets that honored the vibrancy and regenerative power inherent in the African American musical tradition–which seemed even more palpable given recent local and world events.
A heritage that manifested itself in the physical form of a plaque bestowed to the daughter of Dr. Lonnie Smith (who joined the ancestors last September).Razor sharp in a red suit jacket, Danny Clayton delivered a cognac smooth tribute to Luther Vandross before the day ended on a high note (actually two–those effervescent trumpet notes that open “Funkin’ for Jamaica”) as Tom Browne closed the show.
“It was an organic era,” explained Browne when prompted about the longevity of his career and his impressive early 1980’s output. “There were no samples, no loops. I’ve always considered myself a jazz musician. I’ve never looked to make R&B hits and R&B music. I think the main thing with that era, with George Benson and Grover Washington, there was more realness to it.”
With the help of a six piece band, Brown rocked classics like ‘Thighs High (Grip Your Hips and Move),” and the aforementioned tribute to his hometown, while throwing back with his cover of “What’s Going On” which definitely kept things authentic.
This year’s Pine Grill Jazz Reunion was a triumph.