Smooth Jazz Concert Reviews
Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club
Jan. 9, 2014, 7:30 pm
By Ronald Jackson
For the few days leading up to yesterday, we were all mostly in a good replica of Siberia, with temperatures plunging to ridiculous lows. Yesterday, we here on the East coast began to experience a bit of a thaw, and here in the DC/MD/VA area, that thaw was accelerated by the warm—often hot– sounds of saxman Andrew Neu as he lit up the stage with his brand of great eclectic jazz.
Neu, clearly one of the newest members my “musician of musicians,” displayed his exceptional musical skills and imagination for two solid –and I mean solid—and continuous hours with a remarkable support group of musicians (keyboardist/musical director Demetrius Pappas, guitarist Richard Tucker , bassist Jason Long, and drummer Matt Curran). As if Neu wasn’t enough of a high-octane combustible commodity alone, the band was also in need of a fire extinguisher all night long as they followed and were often showcased (as was the case with Pappas, Tucker, and Curran) with Neu along his path of musical paradise.
Neu played with as much intensity and energy as if he were playing before thousands at a stadium instead of in a quaint supper club. Of course, the many who attended were clearly mesmerized and in heaven with appreciation for the saxman, and if you were one of the souls who just happened to miss this display (and heaven knows I hope it wasn’t because you were concerned about the weather, which really was a non-factor), what you missed was perfection personified.
Truly one of singer Bobby Caldwell’s main and most respected men, Neu started us off in fine fashion with the driving, hot jam “Poolside” from his latest release Everything Happens For A Reason. Having sufficiently warmed the audience for more, he then took a seductive turn and serenaded the fans with another from the same album, the sweet, sexy, soulfully jazzy “Hit Me Up.”
Never one to pass on the opportunity to give kudos to a man he so admires and who so admires him, Neu then offered the track on which he and Caldwell collaborated on Neu’s latest, a tune called “What Would I Do?” This finely sculptured tune was initially so titled to refer to Neu’s love of music and his question to himself, “What would I do if I weren’t playing this wonderful music?” Caldwell later convinced him to consider changing the meaning so that those who do not play an instrument could relate. Thus, Neu chose to pose the question instead: In essence, “What would I do without the one I love?” It worked perfectly. The tune is one powerful piece of seriously romantic jazz.
From this point, Neu chose to segue into another from the album, a tune called “Night of the Mojito,” an up-tempo jazz/blues/boogaloo (young people: Ask a seasoned music aficionado what the term ”boogaloo” means if you don’t know). Tucker’s guitar was totally on fire on this one as was Curran’s drums.
Tucker again showed out on Neu’s funky version of Dave Brubeck’s classic “Take 5.”
The night clearly belonged to the Neu groove. Another example of his polished style showed up as he lit up the snappy title track from the release.
To provide even more variety, the saxman rolled over to his Try Something Neu release and allowed his sax to sing the title track and the slow, sultry “Open Mind.”
Touching on songs from every one of his albums plus imaginative covers like Steely Dan’s “Peg” and the romantic Coltrane/Hartman standard “My One and Only Love,” Neu was as thorough as he was good.
Closing with the Latin-tinged “Midnight Buffet” from his debut release, Inspire, Neu left everyone in attendance without a doubt as to why he is so favored by Bobby Caldwell and why so many in contemporary jazz (Jeff Lorber, Steve Oliver, Brian Bromberg, Rick Braun, etc., etc.) bought into his latest release, offering their contributions. Here is polish, poise, and skill personified. If you haven’t yet seen him live, you owe yourself. Many thanks, Andrew, for a night of dazzling jazz and showmanship.