BWW Review: JARED GRIMES at Birdland Jazz Club
Jared Grimes said late in his show the other night that he "wanted to be like Fred Astaire when he grew up." Well, I may not be the perfect Broadway, theater, movie historian, but I'm pretty sure Astaire didn't dance for two hours at a time with barely a break to sing half a line. What started out as a 17 minute tap session full of what I had thought were some pretty slick moves (until he bested himself continuously throughout the show), became a nearly two hour romp backed by one of the world's classiest jam bands highlighted by Jonathan Michel, probably the world's best double bassist and talented pianist, accompanist Mark Meadows who defined sleek with the keys. I have to admit with the disorienting "practice session" of their first five minutes on stage together as each member gradually filtered onto the stage, I didn't have the highest expectations, but I was quickly proved wrong. After his show, I'd call him "Astaire evolved."
The variety, intensity, and the skill at which Grimes applied his talents are what made him truly special to see in person. He played around with a top hat, sliding his fingers along the tip, as he appeared to pay a little tribute toward Michael Jackson. And, he followed that bit with a duel with saxophonist, Brent Birckhead, that provided a fitting climax to the show. At times it felt pristinely rehearsed as the two kept in time without even a glance in the other's direction. Even more impressively were the variations in rhythm that Grimes challenged Birckhead with when they faced each other head to head. Everything Grimes could do, Birckhead could copy, but Grimes impressed with the amount of different taps and slides he could employ. However, at that point, it wasn't as surprising. Throughout the show he was changing the vibe from funky rhythm to smooth jazz, even showing off his military march. At one point later, he epic-ly spun in circles like a ballerina performing endless pirouettes.
In between all the dancing dancing alongside jazz solos from his fellow artists, he somehow wasn't out of breath. At various points throughout the show he stopped to sing a tune. A pair of my favorites was the Billie Holiday song, "I'll Wind" and the Cole Porter tune, "Just One of Those Things." Grimes was a solid singer who could certainly hold his own among any lineup of singers even after having danced as much as he did. Although, his dancing certainly stole the show to the point where it seemed like the entire audience had their phones out to record video. One of the overlooked positive components of his show may have therefore been his supporting cast who never really took a lot of limelight. But Michel's first solo during the Candy Man showed he could unlock the true potential of a double bass. Joining Michel, Meadows (piano), and Birckhead (sax) in support of Grimes on stage were Bret Puchir on guitar and Anwar Marshall on drums.
Whether Grimes is performing at the Oscars like Astaire so famously did remains to be seen, but he's got my vote. I'd prefer to think of it as when, not if. And hopefully in the very near future.
Photo Credit: Kevin Alvey