It's a little after 10PM on July 25th, 2020, and the great trumpeter Russell Gunn just began his live streaming concert for the Blue Note in New York City. I am going to do my best to write my impressions live as I Iisten to the music.
First impressions: the sound and video quality are amazing. Way better than your average live-streamed concert. I am a big fan of Gunn's trumpet playing, composing, arranging, and concept. This video presentation matches his theatrical live shows in a way that very few live-streams successfully capture. The mix and balance are on point and the camera work is top notch.
Apologies for not knowing tune titles. I should know these better than I do. After a brilliant opening tune that featured the band behind Gunn's digitally altered trumpet solo, the second tune out of the gate is a funky original that features the incredible rhythm section and powerful horns.
Track three features a soulful vibe with blistering horn lines. After a sax soli of sorts, trumpeter Melvin Jones is up for a solo that brings a blazing bebop sensbility. In addition to the horn lines, this piece is a perfect vehicle for the top shelf rhythm section. For my money, there are few rhythm sections in the world that can rival drummer Terreon Gully, bassist Delbert Felix, and pianist Kevin Bales. They sound incredible here.
Gunn is playing the theme on flugelhorn in front of the band before turning it over to guitarist Rod Harris before a final screamed note from the band ends the tune abruptly.
Behind the orchestra is a neon sign that says The Royal Krunk Orkestra. The stage goes dark between songs and the sign is the only thing visible.
The great singer Dion Farris was just introduced in the dark and came in while stage remained dark and the dramatic wings attached to her one-piece body suit are lit up on the dark stage. After a moment of only light from the wings, the stage light return and Farris sings the the melody before turning things over to Jamel Mitchell on baritone sax and nathanael Fareed Majluti for a solos that alternate between funky and bopish in their sensibility.
"You may not me, remember my name," is the refrain that Farris repeats her extemporaneous resinging of the melody before a shout chorus that takes us out.
A booming bass note from Delbert Felix rings out after the band drops out and leads to jagged, impressionistic piano stabs from Kevin Bales, and withing a minute the flute of Ra Flutista and trumpet lines from Melvin Jones as Farris continues to dance on stage, outfit alight.
Under a spoltlight, the band's percussionist takes a djembe solo before Farris enters with an anthemic melody with her irridecent wings spread. I recognize this one. It's Lift Every Voice and Sing. This is really a beautiful moment.
A shirtless Kebbi Williams just rang onstage to instigate a series of freely improvsied solos from the seated saxophone section. The band is really cooking now. The shots over the rhythm section are great. Felix's bass and Gully's drums are totally locked and Kevin Bales is rocking back and forth adding pianistic jabs.
A funky bass line brings in the next piece. The Blue Note host just introduced the Krunk orchestra and thanked the band for performing. This really was an incredible show, musically, visually, and conceptually. Thanks to Russell Gunn and his incredible band for an unforgettable show and for significantly raising the bar for live-streamed shows!