As part of a week-long residency at the Blue Note, legendary keyboardist-composer Bob James broke sonic bread with up-and-coming bassist Michael Palazzolo and faithful drummer Billy Kilson. The result of this communion was a head-nodding dive into one of jazz’s most hallowed oeuvres. As was clear throughout this performance, central to the bandleader’s commercial success—not counting the many times his music has been thrown into the genre blender of hip-hop—is his ability to forge bone-deep melodies and shine them through the lenses of simpatico musicians who care about everything they interpret.
The first three tunes of their second set put theory into practice, and then some. Two pianistic originals, “Avalabop” and “Night Crawler,” sandwiched the Fender Rhodes romance of “Feel Like Making Love.” Whether jumping headfirst into jaunty grooves or turning the lights down low, James approached even his best-known motifs with sheer enjoyment. Despite the distance of these classic tunes, he brought them to an immediate and intimate level of exchange that allowed freshness to flourish.