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Richard Bona @ Jazz Standard

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On Friday, I finally got to see a show I have been looking forwards to for quite some time. Ever since I saw Bona play for the first time, to be precise. Tonight was Richard Bona as a solo artist, not as a side man.

I had some very high expectations for this show. In some ways, things were less than I expected; in other ways, even better. The show started to a Jaco tune (Liberty City) and then went through a highlight of tunes from all three of Bona’s albums. While I didn’t get the whole set list (I was too busy enjoying the show), here are some of the songs he played for the set I saw:

  • Kalabancoro
  • Dipita
  • Mike Stern’s I Know You/Dina Lam/Painting A Wish (medley)
  • Ekwa Mwato
  • Te Misea
  • Engingilaye
  • Te Dikalo
  • One Minute

I’m guessing about this set list; if you have corrections, please let me know.

One of the things that I really love about Bona’s playing is the emotion that all of the songs are infused with — overflowing with it, truth be told. This joy was in abundance throughout the entire performance. I’m glad that I got the chance to catch Richard in a small venue; it’s been a while since I’ve been to a show like this, and I forgotten how much fun it can be. Being that intimate with the artist allows for the audience and the performer to have very direct communication. And Bona is a consumate stage personality, interacting with the other musicians and the crowd with ease and aplomb.

There was one aspect of Bona’s show that somewhat disappointed me; namely, the instrumentation of the band on hand. The band consisted of a sax player (Aaron Heick), a keyboardist (Etienne Stadwijk), a drummer (I’m sorry; I didn’t catch his name and that annoys me, because I’m pretty sure that I’ve met him before), a hand percussionist (Samuel Torres) and Bona on bass and vocals.. I do not mean to even slightly denigrate the performances of any musician on stage; but the version of Engingilaye that I’m used to hearing (on the CD, natch) is a heavily afro-Latin kind of song, with a full throated horn section. For whatever reason (and I’m quite sure there’s a good one), the tune live was played with the keys player simulating the horn section. While good, not quite as good as the real thing. A quibble, though.

After the set, the band was hanging out at the bar. I walked over to thank Richard for his show and we talked for a wee bit. Then, the strangest thing happened. Richard asked me my name, and I told him “Casper.” He cocked his head to one side, looked at me funny and asked me if I had a website. Completely shocked that he would know something like that, I said that I did. He said that he remembered seeing the photos that I had taken at a Mike Stern show last year. You could have knocked me over with a feather. A nice and gracious way to end the show.

No photos this time around, though. Sorry; I’ll get some next time.

To sum things up, though, this was one of the best jazz shows I’ve seen in quite some time. It was completely worth the six, seven hour drive to NYC to catch the set. The only thing I’ll do differently next time is try to go up for a weekday show, when the band will have more time to stretch and flex and not have to worry about clearing the room for the next set.

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  • Tomek

    The name of a drummer is Ernesto Simpson and he’s from Cuba..
    I’ve seen the show and it’s absolutley perfect show. Would like to see that again.