Billy Childs’ set that closed the inaugural ‘Legends’ event at the Emirates Airline Dubai Jazz Festival may have been short but it was perfectly formed.
With bandmates Donny McCaslin, all languid precision on saxophone and clarinet, the energetic double bass of Hans Glawisching and the powerhouse drums of Kendrick Scott (who deserves special mention for continuing to play standing up without missing a beat after his stool broke and had to be replaced), the three-time Grammy award-winner turned in a layered and lustrous performance that illustrated his reputation as one of jazz’s most diverse pianists/composers.
Things got off to a rattling start with Backwards Bop, featuring a high-octane solo from Glawisching, and continued with Aaron’s Song (a track Childs, in one of his regular chats to the crowd, told us was written for his son) and Twilight Is Upon Us. Then came a change of pace, and the highlight of the evening, with a deft rendition of Peace by Horace Silver, which Childs acknowledged was a brave decision given the fact that by that point Santana was hitting his straps on the main stage.
Childs made a joke of it, even playing along on the piano to Oye Como Va (‘If you can’t beat them…’ he said), but in truth it was as frustrating for the quartet as it was for their audience.
Still, the closing number, A Starry Night, was a rousing send-off, giving McCaslin and Scott the perfect platform on a track that still sounds fresh despite being almost 20 years old.
And that was that. The set was scheduled to last for an hour and a half but instead ran for a little over 50 minutes and with Al Foster also coming off early on the opening night it is clear there were some teething problems with the scheduling. But these are early days and we can only hope the issues are resolved for the next edition.
The organisers are to be commended for getting such a stellar group of jazz musicians together, but having quiet and loud in such close proximity just doesn’t work.