Saturday, May 19, 2007

Med quintet play Blue

Managed to get out of the empty shell that is my new abode in Bur Dubai and met a journalist friend at the Blue Bar at the Novotel in Za’abeel. I was pleasantly surprised, even if there wasn’t much Belgian beer on draft, there was Belgian beer. And then the Olivier Collete Quintette kicked in, a mix of a Lebanese rhythm section, Belgian keyboard player, Spanish guitarist and I think a French sax player. And they started with Footprints (from Miles Davis’ Miles Smiles album)….From there it was Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" and then a third number that grooved along nicely but which I still can’t recall even after we quizzed the band in the interval. Footprints, like even the shlocky numbers they covered later, would begin in the tradition and then go off into a funky jam that was essentially ‘70s, driven by the electric keyboardist who gave it a period movie soundtrack feel. As my friend observed, an approach not unlike Coltrane covering “pop” from his era, though I kind of prefer the original Inch Worm to one or two of the lamer disco tunes they jammed around. In many ways the performance established a standard that could only go downhill in the second and third sets, but the band remained tight and engaging, and gems were still to come in the form of Mercy, Mercy (Canonball Adderly) and a blues cover (name unknown to me). We left as they headed into Knockin' on Heaven’s Door in the third set, though by this point the beer had made me more or less capable of being impressed by anything, short of the fat women with bare backs and plastic bra straps that cut swathes into their ample flesh. In general the drawbacks of the Blue Bar are few, aside from the name (if you tell your wife) and the food. The latter does enable you to stay in place though, which when these guys are playing, most weekends I gather, is worthwhile.

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