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Concert Review: The ACS Trio at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Mo Alabi |
October 26, 2013 | 1:28 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The enchanting rhythms of jazz music came alive at the Segerstom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California last Friday night, as the ACS Trio graced the stage. The Trio is a combination of some of jazz music’s most prominent women: Geri Allen on the piano, Terri Lynne Carrington on percussion, and Esperanza Spalding on bass, occasionally lending her siren-like vocals to the night’s performance. Together, the three women created music that left many speechless.

“It wasn’t egos…they were serving the music,” said Salo Loyo, a jazz pianist for Mexican singer Luis Miguel, who attended the show with his wife, Marlene. The couple agreed that the Trio played with “a magic between them,” and the performance was strengthened by the way Allen, Carrington and Spalding interacted with each other while on stage. Loyo joked that the show should be called the “Leave the Egos Off the Stage Tour,” adding that the women visibly admired each other, and it is that respect that flowed into the music, allowing the audience to watch the show in awe. The concert was largely dedicated to famed saxophonist Wayne Shorter ‘s 80th birthday celebration, as each of the women had performed with and been inspired by him.

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The musical chemistry between the Trio was undeniable. Spalding’s nimble fingers would dance along the bass strings, as Carrington’s drumming, which she calls “seductive aggression,” created an enigmatic pulse to carry whichever piece they were performing, all complimented by the tones of Allen on the piano. As these actions took place, the women smiled at each other, and took short pauses to enjoy the music themselves.

This camaraderie is what Carrington described as “different generations, shared language,” during a phone interview in early October. She and Allen have been performing together since the 1980s, but Spalding joined the women a few years ago, and collaborated with the two on Carrington’s Grammy Award-winning album, “The Mosaic Project.” As a former adjunct professor at USC and current professor at the Berklee School of Music, Carrington understands the value of multi-generational influence. “It makes my artistry better,” she said when asked about her role as both artist and professor.

Though a newer artist, Spalding is no stranger to collaborating with legends. She became something of a wunderkind when she became the first jazz artist to win Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards in 2011, and even arranged one of the pieces the Trio performed during their Segerstrom Center show.  
“Her voice is like silk,” said Chris Robinson, a first-year student at USC studying jazz guitar and music industry, when asked about why he was excited to see Esperanza Spalding perform. “Her bass-playing is phenomenal.”

Spalding’s bass and singing were highlighted when she sang through a unique form of scatting to “Unconditional Love,” an original piece composed by Geri Allen, an associate professor of jazz and contemporary improvisation at the University of Michigan.

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The improvisational character of jazz made the overall performance more incredible to see. It’s the clash of chords so common to jazz; all three of them could have appeared to be on different wavelengths with their instruments, yet they created a lively harmony that worked well together. Carrington mentioned in her interview that each performance they played was unique for the Trio, and the energy they performed with was largely in connection to the audience. As the artists were on stage, equally shining with their respective sounds, the diverse audience was also unified in what we wanted from the Trio: more.

Reach staff reporter Mo Alabi here, follow her on Twitter and find her blogs here.



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