BY FRANK DE BLASE
On Saturday night Liane Carroll mounted the Christ Church altar — which doubled for a stage – in a fairly understated fashion. I mean, she got up there carrying her purse. What do you suppose she had in there? One thing’s for sure: the lady can certainly carry a tune without a handbag. She has a beautiful voice that went into hyper-syllabic speed when she scatted throughout a rapid-fire set that was overall traditional while still managing to come off fresh. She’s the second artist in two days I’ve heard cover Tom Waits. Fine with me.
Next it was the touch, the feel of Cotton with Big Apple babe Danielia Cotton, a red-hot rocker who played the festival a few years back. She put on a soulful rock set opening for the remnants of The Outlaws on the East and Chestnut stage. At its foundation, the music was powered by a strong singer-songwriter aesthetic, except for when Cotton roared — which was a lot — and when her guitarist laid down a funky hook — which was a lot — and reeled the crowd in.
Esperanza Spalding was both enchantingly focused and filled with child-like wonder as she fronted an excellent 11-piece band at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. The whole set was musically varied, including swipes at swing, flights of funk, and dives into dissonance with a constant narrative about love’s ambiguity running throughout. It was positively brilliant as the band (including previous Jazz Fest performer Tia Fuller on sax) followed the uber-afro’d Spalding’s flexible scat, going so far as to mimic and harmonize.
Abilene was rockin’ so I didn’t bother knockin’. I just walked on in to catch Canadian Americana (I guess we should call it Canadiacana) rockers Blackie & the Rodeo Kingsblow up the joint. This was hardcore bang and twang like Steve Earle used to do when he was still on drugs. In matching Flying Burrito Brothers suits, the band laid it down big time with some sensational slide leading the parade. Nobody sat still. I mean, I saw a woman dancing in her wheelchair. Stuff was getting biblical tonight.
I’m noticing a few more buskers on the sidewalks than in years past. I plan on checking some of them out more closely Sunday, in between officially sanctioned sets like Brandi Disterheft at Max of Eastman Place.