LIVE: James Francies @ Caffe Lena 07/01/2021
Skidmore Jazz Institute Alumni have come back more than once to give a concert at the Institute. In recent memory, have been five-time Grammy-nominee Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah and late show celebrity Jon Batiste. For this year’s concert, all 3 members of the band are alumni. The leader of the band, James Francies has had quite the journey since he attended the institute 10 years ago. Among the many stars of the genre, he has played with Jeff “Tain”’ Watts, Chris Potter, Eric Harland and Pat Metheny as well as local hero Stefon Harris. We have been fortunate to hear him in person in various bands and solo at the Falcon, 2018 Riverfront Jazz Festival, Hudson Hall and the Egg. He is a Blue Note artist with albums to his credit.
But this appearance was special, Francies appeared with his trio consisting of Jeremy Dutton(drums) and Burniss Travis II(bass). Sporting a Jimi Hendrix “Electric Ladyland tshirt gave us a hint of the music to come from the stage. “ We have played together for so long, we can guess what each other are playing. I can’t recall all the tunes we are doing, we are just playing” remarked Francies after the first short break in the music. That first medley included Miles Davis’ ” Nardis” as well as self authored “Reciprocal” and “713”. And they continued to play together like that. Francies is synesthetic, he sees colors in music. That clearly helps him in his composition as well as helps him guide the band in its performance.
Other original compositions included were “Dark Purple” and “Dreaming “ a version of Monk’s “Rhythmin” that would have made Monk grin from ear to ear. The grand finale was an arrangement of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” that sent this Broadway showtune into another dimension, going a step beyond Trane’s early 60s version which brought it into the space age.
An all too short evening of adventurous music for those with open minds and hearts.