At its best, jazz eludes capture and mechanical reproduction. It is a moment, a collaboration between players and listeners, irreducible to digital bytes or grooves cut in wax. At its best it is a communion of minds, a kind of telepathy between simpatico beings. With the best jazz, you always have to be there.
If you were there, you don't need this review. If you weren't, you missed the minor miracle of, well, let's stipulate that South on Main made a near-perfect venue for pianist Peter Martin and his friend, Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo, reading one another's minds Thursday night.
Martin, of St. Louis, is a dynamic and assured pianist who seems to embody the rootsy idioms that spring from the Mississippi Delta. There is more than a hint of blues in his playing, his chording and rhythms suggest an erudite Professor Longhair student.
He played South on Main once before, nearly a year ago. For his return engagement, he recruited Lubambo, who displayed a command not only of the bossa nova style of his predecessors Antonio Carlos Jobim and Marcos Valle but also of hard bop and swing.
And while both men are technically accomplished -- having played with the likes of Dianne Reeves, Michael Brecker, Yo-Yo Ma, Kathleen Battle, Diana Krall, Herbie Mann, Wynton Marsalis, Gal Costa, Kurt Elling and many others -- the best moments of their show seemed revelatory both to the audience and the artists themselves.
The set list they played through might seem predictable and programmatic in cold type. They started with Gershwin's "Summertime," moved onto a Jobim number, followed that up with Lubambo's own "Bachio" (a thought experiment that seemed to imagine the adventures of Johann Sebastian in Recife), before sliding into a version of "Body and Soul" that they had started working out during a workshop at the University of Central Arkansas they'd led earlier in the day. But in practice, it was a lively and at times joyous display of chops and attitude.
They clearly enjoy each other's company and listen closely to one another, seamlessly handing melodic lines back and forth, each sliding around to support the other, so that at times it was difficult to tell exactly where the plucked nylon gave way to hammered steel.
Sure, instrumental jazz isn't for everyone, and maybe the recording of this concert might not have the same energy as what passed through the live audience. But Martin's crashing crescendos and Lubambo's precise, Al Di Meola-fast runs up and down the neck were both virtuostic and emotionally satisfying. Maybe you had to be there. Those who were seemed happy enough.
Metro on 01/31/2015