Tonight, I went to see the Rites of Strings show at Wolf Trap. Rites of Strings consists of Jean-Luc Ponty on violin, Stanley Clarke on bass and Al DiMeola on guitar. No other musicians played during their set.
Di Meola and Clarke played together in Chick Corea’s Return To Forever (one of the supergroups of the 70’s), and Clarke played with Ponty even before then. The three of them released a CD in the mid-90’s, toured once to support it and then pretty much went their separate ways. Their current tour is the first time they have played together in about ten years.
The three of them played like the grand masters of their instruments that they are. You can tell that they each have a long history between each other, just on the chemistry that was so very evident throughout their performance. In fact, the only two criticisms I would have about their performance would be a tendency to overplay (particularly Di Meola), shoe horning in ten notes when one would do, and the lack of cleanliness of those fast notes. I suppose that when you’re playing so many notes that the staff is painted black, just sheer odds are going to catch up with you, but it seemed like there were a lot of whiffs and futzes.
The absence of a drummer caused Clarke to lay back and play a near completely supporting role. Not that he didn’t step up and solo during the songs, but his playing felt more like a musician’s playing rather than a soloist waiting for his turn. Each musician played entirely acoustic. The instruments were miked, but they were all acoustic — a flamenco guitar and an Ovation for Di Meola, an upright and an acoustic Ovation for Clarke and a single violin for Ponty.
The opening three songs were from the Rites of Strings album (Indigo, Song To John and Memory Canyon which was followed by a standing ovation). Each musician took an extended solo during the course of each song. Clarke’s solo during Song To John was so dynamic and he was so into his playing that he actually lost control of his upright, and it slipped out of his hands as he was playing.
Then, each musician took time to play an all-alone solo (I really need to come up with a word for this) — first Di Meola, then Ponty (standing O), followed by Clarke (standing O). Afterwards, they played a Ponty tune (Renaissance), Stanley’s signature tune School Days (standing O) and then used Di Meola’s Mediterranean Sundance as their encore (standing O). Since I was noticing how many standing ovations there were, I should probably mention that some people gave them a standing O just for walking out on stage. Not what you would call a hostile crowd.
Photos of the show can be found here. Sorry that there aren’t any more of them, but the ushers at Wolf Trap were going all picky about taking photos. I don’t think they threw anyone out, but they definitely gave the evil eye to anyone even trying to take a picture (photo or not).Powered by Sidelines