“The Real Thing” – American Jazz Week featuring Kirk Lightsey and Jean Toussaint
(Cafe Museum, Passau 28, 29 December 2019. Review by Oliver Weindling)
A band including Detroit piano great Kirk Lightsey and saxophonist Jean Toussaint in a small club. Can there be much better? Simple answer? NO!
This gig, in the Cafe Museum in Passau, of which I caught 2 nights out of a series of 6 over New Year was warm and heartfelt. What we might regard as glitches, they regarded as opportunities. We were encouraged to join in the strong empathy and feeling of joy that was created. Like a fine wine, the music opened out over the two days and we were able more and more to appreciate the fine bouquet and complexity of the flavour.
The programme could be briefly summarised as a post-Blakey style session. The repertoire consisted of a few originals by Toussaint and Lightsey, but also a fair few Wayne Shorter tunes and others such as Blues On The Corner by McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Heath’s New Blue and Thelonious Monk’s Mississippi Blue. They have created a wide repertoire and indeed there were only two or three tunes which were in the repertoire on both nights.This was certainly a gig where close attention was amply rewarded.
When you hear Kirk Lightsey play, you hear the whole of jazz history come out from the instrument. He has an assured melodiousness, and still shows energy and imagination at 82. We had also been hoping that he would be able to give short introductions on elements of his extensive life story. But the band had been rehearsing its extensive repertoire before each of the first gigs. Perhaps it was going to be possible to hear him later in the week. He has been focusing more on his past recently and there are already a few fascinating stories on his blog (link below). Fortunately, we were able to sit with Lightsey and Toussaint after the gig in the bar, and we were able to hang on every word about the music’s history, such as Lightsey’s time with Dexter Gordon and Woody Shaw in the early 60s or Toussaint’s time as a member of the Jazz Messengers.
The rest of the band was Dusan Novakov on drums, Wolfram Derschmidt on bass and, particularly, Paul Zauner on trombone. Zauner was a good foil to Toussaint, playing more carefully and quietly, while Toussaint picked up power as the two nights wore on. Novakov and Derschmidt are a formidable rhythm section, often to be heard in Zauner’s projects, such as the recent visit of David Murray which included the Vortex last November.
The jazz club at the Museum is in part motivated by Zauner. His own Inntöne Festival takes place just over the border in Austria over the Whitsun weekend. At the festival, he particularly takes advantage of the sensitivity of Lightsey as a foil for great singers, and I have heard him really stimulate Jazzmeia Horn (even before she won the Monk Prize) and, more recently, Chanda Rule. For many years Zauner was the active programmer in Passau. They now have a programme of 3-4 concerts a week in this intimate environment. So, even if one comes to the area at any time of year, there is a great place to hear music.
Oliver Weindling is a Director and a programmer at the Vortex
LINKS: Kirk Lightsey’s tells his story on a new site “Coming and Going