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Theatre

Theatre image
Parent Issue
Day
3
Month
September
Year
1976
OCR Text

Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium August 6-7 FRIDAY: With the primartly Black audience filing slowly toward the belly of the Pon-Met monstTOsity, Donald Byrd and The Black Byrds promptly opened George Wein's Pontiac Kool Jazz Festival Friday, August 6. The sun was still bright through the fibreglass roof, and before you were completely seated the Byrd and his young but talented flock had done their bit and flown. I think I was too busy criticizing the architecture or wondering whether Brown & Williamson owned Marlboro, 'cause Donald Byrd's artistry just couldn't be that disengaging. I fight the notion that his art is but another example of the New Black Muzak. The group departed without disturbing the relative clamor of folks searching for their seats and took with them the lone semblance of jazz- from here on out it would be the "soul" artists. Jazz? Soul? Well, according to Mr. George Wein, the famous Newport Jazz Festival producer , and now president of Festival Productions Inc., the idea of presenting soul artists on a jazz festival "has emerged in a very natural way. Perhaps it has upset the balance of jazz artists to soul artists, but at the same time it hasnot affected the musical quality of our festival." (Now, doesn't that make cents?) The Staple Singers were as moving as ever but their formula of popular ("Respect Yo'self" and "Let's Do It Again") gospel-cum-blues repertoire elicited only mild entlnisiasm. Folks appeared to be saving their energy or something. "Pop" Staples was wise in keeping the performance short and sweet. In a somewhat contradictory fashion an evening chili was descending upon Pon Met while, at the same time, things were beginning to warm up on stage. Resplendent and highly polished (with their own traveling M.C.), Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes continued the program's surprisingly smooth transition. Now the flashbulbs were popping and the four closed-circuit screens stretched the quintet from skieline to sideline. David Ebo's voice finally causee! sonie real excitement. "Wake Up Everybody" took tlie audience to yet another level of anticipation wliich Sharon Paige was able to liandle. The joint was jumpin' and being passed. "You Know How to Make Me Feel So Good," intoned Mr. Meivin. Not until Smokey reininisccd was he able to regain the momentum establislied by the Blue Notes. Then it was automatic and spellbinding. You heard again of lus poetic geniuras he.plucked hit after hit from his abundant bag. "I Am, I Am," "Tears of a Clown," and 'Tracks of My Tears" echoed from lover to lover and we all remembered things past. If Smokey stayed perhaps a song too long it was okay, and flutist Fred Smith and Sonny Burton at the keyboards made the small indulgence all the more permissable. The Stylistics went immediately to an expected medley of hits and only Russell Thompkins' distinguishable tenor-falsetto rescued the group from the woof and warp waiting in the dark to greet Marvin. Those of you lucky enough to be at Madison Square Garden when Dr. "J" comes out in tliat fitst game against the Knicks will hear a roar equivalent to the one that greeted Marvin Gaye. The entire crowd carne to its feet, never to sit again. Watching him perform it was easy to see at least a portion of the explanation behind this screaming popularity. Before he was through his first song he had managed to seduce every lady in the house (and a few dudes, too!). With each sway the crowd moved closer and closer to the stage, and when he began to point and shout "if the spirit moves you, let me groove you," four young women down front were ready to "get it on"! Bynow, it liad to be some twcnty degrees warmer at Pon Met, and we went home toasted to the bone. -Herb Boyd SATURDAY: The second evening of the Kool Jazz (?) Festival was kicked off by the veFy spirited sounds of the Crusaders, minus the trombone ot Wayne Henderson. Comprised of drummer Nejibert "Stix" Hooper, Wilton Felder on tenor sax, Robert Popwell on bass, and Larry Carlton on guitar, the former Jazz Crusaders wound through severa! of their favorites- "Keep That Sanie Oíd Feeling," "Way Back Home," "Spiral," and "Stomp and Buckdance" all of which were badly marred by the terrible acoustics of the massive cement structure as sounds bounced off the walls like an echo in the Grand Canyon. Up next was Joe Simon, backedby female vocalists and a 10-piece ensemble which included two drummers. Simon was received enthusiastically, particularly on the main floor where plywood covered the astro-turf and the music wajsurprisingly discernible. He did his biggest: "Power of Love," "Drowning in a Sea of Love," "Your Time to Cry," "Misty Blue," and "Get Down on the Floor." The bluesman from Indianola, Mississippi was up next-the great B.B. King. He got a standing ovation before he played one note, and he continued to captivate with such tunes as "Let the Good Times Roll," "Why I Sing the Blues," "The Thrill Is Gone," and the classic "Cheatin' On Me." The audience stood again, shouting "B.B. -one more time!", but there was no time for an encoré as the stage was being prepared for Ferndale's own Spinners. The irrepressible vocal quintet started with their biggest hit from the Motown days, "It's A Shame." The group proceeded to do most of their Atlantic hits, including "Wake Up Susan," 'Then Came You," "One of a Kind Love Affair," "Love or Leave," "Sadie," "Games People Play," "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love," "Love Don't Love Nobody," and "Mighty Love." Lead vocalist Phillipe Wynne turned the crowd on with his smooth delivery, and the group charmed with their patented Spinners buffoonery. Closing the show was Al Green, who danced, pranced, and perfonned in á jagged but nonetheless satisfying manner. He sang his string of hits, which were, with the exception of "For the Good Times," all medium-tempo and funky. Green more than pleased his fans with renditions of "You Oughta Be With Me," "Tired of Being Alone," "Ain't No Fun to Me," "Let 's Get Married," and "Let's Stay Together." After almost fomenting a stampede of the stage, Al was rushed to a waiting limosine which pulled out of Pon-Met's back door as the band played its last funky notes. Á. mass of contradictions, Kool Jazz was a fantastic concert in terms of soul music. If you were sitting in the wrong place, however, you never really got to hear it-about 50,000 out of 60,000 seats were exposed to the endless echo. But most of these seats weren't filled anyway -thanks to the fact that the whole thing was being paid for out of the vast promotional budget for Kool Cigarettes, that didn't seem to bother anybody, either.