Rhythmic revolutions: Exploring ‘New Standards’ with Terri Lyne Carrington

Jan. 29, 2024, 12:16 a.m.

Terri Lyne Carrington evolved the conventional jazz concert experience into an avant-garde spectacle of dance and spoken word at her “New Standards” concert at Bing Concert Hall on Thursday. The performance was part of a week-long celebration of women in jazz, a fitting tribute given Carrington’s dedication to highlighting contributions of the genre’s female composers. 

Though the crowd was less dense than one might expect for a name as prominent as Carrington’s, this intimacy only added to the uniqueness of the event.

In fact, it was in the moments of contrast that the concert truly shone. Experimental works — some suspenseful, some cinematic — showcased Carrington’s willingness to push boundaries, to explore the spaces between the notes.

Carrington laid the groundwork for the evening with an eclectic opening that challenged the audience’s perceptions of harmony and rhythm. Harmony seemed to cascade down on us from every angle. In particular, pianist Kris Davis’s rapid and precise movements across the keyboard were a spectacle of mastery and passion for the craft.

A dancer, initially mistaken for a vocalist due to her poised seating, surprised everyone by rising to perform rhythmic choreography. The disorienting collection of noise at the beginning eventually gave way to a more melodious flow, the dancer’s aerobic movements syncing with the transition.

A dancer in a silver two-piece raises her hands to the ceiling as people perform in the back.
A rhythmic dance drew audience members in to the start of the concert. (Courtesy of Michael Spencer)

Vocalist Vuyo Sotashe’s entry marked a shift into a more narrative-driven part of the evening. Despite some audio challenges, his rich and emotive voice punctuated the hall with hauntingly beautiful lines.

“You can never lose a thing if it belongs to you,” Sotashe sang as the final words of his first song.

His work on “Circling” brought a lively, calypso vibe, turning the hall into a shadowy dance floor. The audience swayed hypnotically with the groovy bass lines and guitar riffs.

This narrative arc continued to deepen with “Black Beauty” and “10 Minutes Till Closing,” where music and spoken word merged to create a powerful commentary on identity and beauty. Davis’s interaction with his instrument told a story in itself — a tale of tension and release, of expectation and surprise. The dancer transitioned into a narrating role to weave words into the fabric of the music, making each note and phrase resonate with a profound significance.

Under the glow of warm pink lights, the concert concluded with “Two Hearts Lost,” a piece that perfectly encapsulated the evening’s journey — a stroll through the complexities of jazz, the power of narrative in music and the undeniable talent of Carrington and her ensemble. This final melody not only resonated as a testament to the transformative power of music but left an indelible impression of emotional depth, establishing “new standards” for captivating musical journeys.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

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