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Last night, the soul-stirring and acrobatic vocalist Leonard Patton took the stage before a sold-out audience in The Back Room at 98 Bottles with an all-star band featuring trumpeter/vocalist Teagan Taylor, pianist Ed Kornhauser, guitarist Nate Jarrell, and bassist Harley Magsino to celebrate the music of the late pop-star icon Michael Jackson.

Allow me to be brutally honest.

Even before the infamous Neverland Ranch sleepovers--I was never a fan of the "king-of-pop." However, I know a lot of folks who are--so, I'll leave it at that.

I am a big fan of Patton, Kornhauser, Magsino and Jarrell--and I'm becoming a big fan of Taylor--so, if anyone could make this music work for me, it would be these cats.

Patton opened up "Black Or White," with wild whoops, hollers and noisemaking before Taylor joined him--making for a sublime, nicely harmonized blend. Taylor lit out on a trumpet solo--she's got a warm, thick sound and a cool sense of when to stretch the long tones. Kornhauser was next, combining long strands of the lyrical with short bursts of barrelhouse.

On "Butterflies," Patton's deep baritone balanced the whiskey with the sugar, and Kornauser spun a spot full of melodic curlicues. "I Can't Help It," grooved along on the Brazilian mood established by Jarrell's lithe nylon-string comping, and his solo danced around the changes. Taylor continued to impress with her fluid tone and relevant ideas-- and Kornhauser might have stolen the show if his piano could have been clearly heard--he was way under-present in the room all evening.

Patton introduced "Starting Something," with beat-box effects and synthetic language while the band filled in around him before everyone morphed into a radically rearranged "Beat It," stripped down to its essence.

"Bad," was thankfully unrecognizable until the bridge, at which point the dynamics drew way down-- low enough, in fact to actually hear Kornhauser's remarkably deft and melodic essay. Patton, Jarrell and Taylor followed with excellent solos--then the piece transformed into an ecstatic closing on "Freedom Jazz Dance," which was hands down, the highpoint for me.

Taylor's vocal feature came on the smoky standard, "You Don't Know What Love Is," and it was another remarkable moment. You can hear a little Norah Jones in her--along with a lot of clarity and depth.

"Billie Jean," came out as a smoldering minor-key lament--sounding good enough to offset the ponderous and confusing lyrics--no small feat in my book.

"Human Nature," was another slice of the sublime. Sticking closer to the original arrangement proved effective, and Magsino took it up several notches with a deep, slippery solo that reflected more about human nature than the song itself.

All in all, an interesting experiment. It probably resonated more with the crowd than with me. Patton could sing the phonebook and make it real.

Photo by ChazzyM

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suslik Aug. 30, 2012 @ 12:56 a.m.

Wow, poor thing... Having to listen to that horrible Michael Jackson music! It's almost funny, how you try to put everything MJ related in that performance down and everything else gets lifted into perfection. It would probably be funny, if you weren't talking about a homage to person you are trying to put down.

But, as they say, all publicity is good publicity, so as a fan of Michael Jackson's music - thanks!


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