Savannah Music Festival Review: Late Night Jam @Morris Center

IF it’s true that most musical genres are best experienced live, this is especially true for jazz. And every jazz aficionado I know marks their calendars for the Savannah Music Festival’s annual “Late Night Jam” at the Morris Center, usually headlined by longtime Festival favorite Wycliffe Gordon.

They wouldn’t miss this for just about anything, and if you’ve been you understand why.

Friday night was everything every local jazz fan eagerly anticipated, and then some. Fresh off the heels of an earlier performance at the Lucas accompanying the silent film Within Our Gates – original score by Gordon himself – this jam session featured an already-warmed up group of musicians who took the stage ready to go.

(How fresh off the heels? This gig started literally only half an hour after the last note of the Lucas gig several blocks away.)

Gordon is always the affable ringleader of this event, his endlessly engaging and tasteful trombone playing anchoring it all as (usually) the only brass player onstage.

This year Gordon was joined by the masterful and wildly inventive Adrian Cunningham, who absolutely destroyed on the clarinet and saxophone. Cunningham is pretty much the jazz world’s favorite reed player these days, and he and Gordon have formed quite the musical partnership of late.

During one particularly sick solo from Cunningham, Gordon just looked at him and shook his head.

Also delivering some tasty solos – actually the most I’ve ever seen a bass player featured at one of these – was Yasushi Nakamura, who also played earlier that Friday with Brianna Thomas.

But the audience was in for an even more special treat as the brilliant trumpet player Terell Stafford sat in. While this is far from Stafford’s first appearance at the Music Festival, this was the first time I can remember that he was so prominently billed.

As truly wonderful as every other player was onstage, Stafford clearly is working on a whole other level. His forceful command of the instrument and his overwhelming confidence rang to the rafters and electrified everything within earshot.

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