JAZZ IS best enjoyed in as intimate a venue as possible. In Savannah, those opportunities are very rare indeed.
Perhaps the best opportunity each year comes when the Savannah Music Festival brings in the nation's and region's top jazz talents, both young and old, to the stage at the Morris Center.
Last night's double bill with Joey DeFrancesco & The People and the Ike Stubblefield Trio was deemed the "Jazz Organ Summit," and it was truth in advertising, as it featured probably the two leading figures in jazz organ today.
It's always a great treat to hear the classic analog live sound of the Hammond B-3 organ and the rich tones produced by its iconic Leslie cabinet; greater still when it's played by talents such as these.
Ike Stubblefield is well-known to local audiences for his frequent tour stops here. However, the topflight production values at the Music Festival seemed to highlight and expand his familiar mastery.
Ike has the perfect duo backing him up; understated guitarist Detroit Brooks provides a sweet melody line with what by jazz standards is a minimalist technique.
Drummer Herlin Riley, though, is the secret weapon. The delightfully playful and swing-heavy jazz drumming technique of the New Orleans native often ventures into smile-inducing whimsy.
Ike is a deeply soulful player, comfortable with the whole range of blues/jazz/funk/R&B sonic emotion. His basic intent seems to be to not make the show about himself, but about the groove and the swing. He is unfailingly humble, almost self-effacing, onstage, so that when his big solo comes amid the rock-solid, perfect grooves, it has all the more impact.
Lightning-fast solos were in heavy abundance, however, with the performance by Joey DeFrancesco and The People. The nationally renowned Philadelphia legend, backed by a trio of outstanding young players, delved more into high-energy free jazz than the soul-drenched crew of Ike Stubblefield.
While DeFrancesco himself is no slouch at fast and skillful playing, he let his band — Troy Roberts on saxophone, Dan Wilson on guitar, and Jason Brown on drums — take extended solos, which the crowd seemed to enjoy most of all.