By Liv Field
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum plays host to a live monthly music series called RISE. The series, curated by Shea Rose and Simone Scazzocchio, brings pop, rock, and hip-hop artists into Calderwood Hall, a space that is usually reserved for classical music. This series is a whole new way for audiences and musicians to connect in a hall described as the Gardner’s “sonic cube.” Holding a capacity of 300 people, this space creates a unique design, allowing for an intimate connection between the performer and audience while also providing top notch acoustics and aesthetics.
This RISE showcase was headlined by Grammy Award-winning drummer, producer, and educator, Terri Lyne Carrington. Carrington is celebrating 40 years in music. She played her first show at ten years old and was considered a “kid wonder” in publications such as People, Ebony, and Modern Drummer. She has worked with several luminary artists including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Al Jarreau, Esperanza Spalding and many more. She attended Berklee on a full scholarship, then ventured to New York City and LA where she was a drummer for late-night TV on the Arsenio Hall Show and Quincy Jones’s VIBE TV.
Opening the show for Carrington was Jas & Chums led by drummer and composer Jas Kayser, an active musician in Boston, New York, and London. Kayser has played with various artists, including Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Ralph Peterson, and Luciana Souza, performing at well-known venues such as Scullers Jazz Club, Ryle’s Jazz Club, Wally’s Café, and Rockwood Music Hall.
Kayser opened with Afro-beat inspired grooves, blended with jazz-influenced harmony and contagious horn lines. With backing vocals by Danny Gatza and Niu Raza, these artists perfectly blended tones of African harmonies with simple and soothing sounds. Kayser, the lead percussionist, was accompanied by backing percussionist Juan Mejia, who incorporated bongo sounds and an occasional shaker. Bassist Dana Roth gained the audience’s attention, bringing the audience further into this funky African groove, perfectly blended with the the keys played by Margaux Vranken, the subtle clean electric guitar of Lior Tzemach, and an occasional yet empowering flugelhorn solo by Milena Fauquet. Jas & Chum’s performance included their most recent single “Stupid on the Beat,” led by Kayser’s exquisite drumming patterns, a groovy bass line, and a catchy hook to keep the listener on their feet.
The headlining set by Carrington started with a very soothing and dramatic introduction with incredible vocals by Debo Ray stating that the song was about the election, and background piano by Santiago Bosch. Ray invoked phrases such as “How much can we endure? Time will tell. We suffer through then rise again.” Carrington, yet to make her entrance into the atmosphere of the music, let the audience take in this statement of the piece. As the second song began, Carrington made her entrance with Ray doing ooh’s and aah’s, along with Santiago on piano, and an introduction by Jassa Overall working the turntable with occasional hip-hop infusion repeating words such as “unconditional” in a dreamy repetitive way. With the soloing of incredibly talented saxophonist Morgan Guerin, the songs took you on a ride to another place, away from your seat, and on this journey Carrington has written for us all, a feeling that puts you straight into the clouds. Each different song, mood, and statement flowed perfectly through each other to have you hooked and never leave you questioning the placement of a note.
Carrington took a break after one of her own arrangements to talk about her project/album called Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue, which won her a Grammy Award for her work. The project featured her own arrangements of the famed Money Jungle album by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach. One of the arrangements she performed was called “Rem Blues/Music,” with Overall rapping on top of a poem by Ellington. She then continues the show with her arrangement of the Joni Mitchell song “Love,” from her forthcoming album called Social Science.
The audience began to completely loosen up, getting to know Carrington and the band, while Carrington created an atmospheric feel of music for everyone to sink into their seats and never want to leave. “Country Boy Blues” entered the set list, which brought a much different vibe, welcoming a more rustic and bluesy feel, while still letting Carrington add her magic to the arrangement of the song to bring you to a euphoric state of mind. As the song came to an end, Carrington shared a moment with the audience that they had been waiting for, she took about a two-minute-long solo, then seamlessly threaded into the next tune, bringing everyone to an intimate moment bringing this amazing musicians talent and skill to appreciation.
As the concert came to an end, Carrington invited Kayser back on stage to have a bit of a “drum-off.” Not so much of a competition, but taking the different styles of percussion and bringing people to the edge of their seat wondering who was going to play next and what they would bring to the table. The energy that was being received and passed on by the audience and the performers was something very special, like Carrington said in the show, “everything comes full circle.”
Leaving the venue, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. From the venue space itself, to the performers that played, there was only but positive vibrancy being expelled into the space. Much thanks to Kayser and Carrington for the beautiful sets that were shared with the listeners, and to the museum. The RISE music series is something to be reckoned with and a place I can now depend on for bringing me to my musical spirits.