by W. Kim Heron
Steve Wood turned in a killer set at the recent Detroit International Jazz Fest, reprising the late ’50s work of Yusef Lateef. Both on the originals by Lateef and Lateef’s colleagues, and on standards (like a haunting “Angel Eyes”), saxophonist Wood and company reminded listeners how exciting Lateef was just then — think of him as working within the house of hardbop, but even then leaning out the window. So we asked Wood about whether he’d thought about recording the material, at which point he looked at us like we were nuts. Bringing to the stage music that Lateef (and everyone else) abandoned half a century ago is homage. But putting a disc out when the originals are readily available? Wood’s look said, “Sacrilege.” But, at least, you get another chance to experience the music live when Wood takes the stage this Saturday at Cliff Bell’s (2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543).
Meanwhile, in the live gig department, we’ve learned that guitarist Spencer Barefield has moved into the regular Wednesday night spot at Baker’s Keyboard, the night held for years by the late Teddy Harris Jr., and since Teddy’s passing by pianist Tad Weed. Under Harris, it was an all-comers jam session night. Barefield says that won’t be the case on his watch, although some selective guests will be sitting in from time to time. He expects bassist Don Mayberry and drummer Djallo Djakate Keita to round out his trio frequently. One of Barefield’s other big projects these days is preparing the first in a series of releases from the fabled concert series presented by his Creative Arts Collective at the Detroit Institute of Arts during the 1980s. Up first: discs featuring Leroy Jenkins and Douglas Ewart, and a reissue of Barefield’s trio date of the time, Transdimensional Space Window. (Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, 20510 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-345-6300.)
And, finally, from the “who’s authentic” competition, we quote from a press release we found while in a fit of desk cleaning: “How Many Stories Do You Read on My Face is the debut album by artist Senti Toy. Senti (also known as Sentienla Toy Threadgill) was born in Nagaland — the small, isolated tribal state in the northeastern tip of India. The great-granddaughter of a Naga headhunter, she has had a most unusual and colorful life. As a songwriter and vocalist, Senti developed her unclassifiable blend of jazz, traditional folk and blues-tinged pop.” The unclassifiable claim, on the basis of the Circular Moves release, is a bit of a stretch. She’s pleasant in a Jill Scott sort of way, with tabla and other accoutrements spicing up rather generic global pop craft. We longed for the twisted sort of edge that her hubby, saxophonist-composer Henry Threadgill, might have brought to the proceedings. Maybe we’ll hear more of that next release — or better yet that headhunter vibe.
Steve Wood: paying tribute to Yusef Lateef ... just not on record.