Rare musicianship from modern masters

The Lao Tizer Band at the Ruth Seaton James Centre as part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts

The Lao Tizer Band has been called “jazz group of the year” and jazz is what they delivered, flawlessly and consistently.

Tizer himself commanded two keyboards and an original wooden Hammond organ, sometimes playing all three at once.

The band, a seasoned, tightly-knit team, was completely attuned to each other as well as to their own instruments. Violinist Karen Briggs showed us a repertory of sounds ranging from police sirens to theremin-like radio harmonics at the limit of audibility; to blazing pizzicatos and furious bowed rhythms to drive the music to new levels of intensity.

Guitarist Chieli Minucci complemented the violin with matching note-for-note unisons in the higher registers where he was completely at home. He also generated sustained, ever-changing jazz horn line solos, particularly in his own composition Courageous Cats.

This number was a brilliant reference to 1940s jazz guitarist Charlie Christian and to the historical implications of the musician as “cat” in the slang of the time. Sax player Nelson Rangell complemented the melody lines with a sly reference to the Pink Panther theme.

Nelson’s composition, Tidal Wave, showcased his own Roland Kirk-like infinite sustain as well as a series of perfectly executed arpeggios taken at dizzying speed.

With vocalist Tita Hutchison, the band tackled a number of rock classics: U2’s Pride (In the Name of Love) and Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On.

Hutchison approached the numbers with a Joplinesque style jazz-based rock articulation before the final number, a composition by Tizer and herself entitled New Orleans. In this number, punctuated by Tizer’s Hammond organ at full throttle, Hutchison brought the music to an overwhelming finish. This was an evening of terrific and rare musicianship from a team of modern masters.

Bermuda’s own 4Time fronted the show with an energetic and eclectic mix that included an arrangement of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry sung by Robert “Sai” Emery.

The band shifted imperceptibly into a speeded up 6/4 time rally during the final chorus. In other words, they moved from reggae to jazz before handing the show over to the eight-piece Lao Tizer Band.