To Sit, or to Stand?

All that Jazz: Oct. 2009

Now that the jazz scene has returned to the cozy environs of Vienna’s Klubs and Kellers, it’s time to entertain the question nagging aficionados the most. Is jazz best enjoyed sitting or standing?

Recent concerts in the Began in Africa series at Porgy & Bess exemplified the pros and cons of seating. Afrobeat legend Tony Allen attracted enough people to warrant removal of the tables and chairs in front of the stage. Fortunately at the Porgy, those who arrived early nabbed one of the tables in the wrap-around balcony. For Allen’s concert, though, even those sitting couldn’t resist the urge to stand and wiggle to the groovy beat.

A few nights later, Cameroon-born bassist Etienne Mbappé at times provided reasons to dance, but this time the furniture had returned to the parquet. The opening tunes were soothing and melodic, enjoyable for a lounging back, taking a sip from your drink of choice and meditating on the motifs.

Yet, a few songs in the set aroused an urge to move. Those standing in the back of the balcony had no problem expressing themselves in any kinetic manner. Down below, the crowd remained fixed to their chairs. Did they not find the music inspiring enough to dance, or did they not feel like it was allowed? Porgy manager Christoph Huber assured that it is not verboten.

“I like the decision of the people,” Huber said to The Vienna Review during the show. “If they want to dance they can move the tables. I’m not going to stop them.”

A similar scenario had taken place at the grand, elegant Konzerthaus last April during a show for funk master Maceo Parker. Overwhelmed by the penetrating rhythms of the first half a dozen songs, the spectators rose to their feet and filled the aisles, somehow disobeying the layout of the classical venue.

Like the Porgy, the Sargfabrik offers around 160 seats unless the musical style, such as African music, better suits a standing-room only crowd. When guitar legend Bill Frisell takes the stage on Oct. 27, don’t expect an empty seat in the house.

Some locales don’t lend themselves to standing room only crowds. The Keller of Tunnel in the 8th District has fixed tables and plush seats that can’t be moved. But no one will keep you from dancing in the aisle on their Sunday and Monday night jazz jams.

Whether sitting or standing, enjoy the music as you will; the club owners probably won’t mind.

Drums Abound

Also of note, a number of famous drummers from the jazz world are gracing Vienna with their rhythm this fall. On the heels of Tony Allen’s drumming display, October offers two of the most influential drummers in jazz and popular music: Steve Gadd and Jack DeJohnette.

Since appearing on the jazz scene in the late 1960’s, Gadd has played with everyone from trumpet player Chuck Mangione and pianist Chick Corea to the likes of Paul Simon, Steely Dan, and Eric Clapton. His style of playing is flawless, while maintaining a great deal of creativity while on the drums. It is this versatility that has made him such a sought-after drummer in the music world. Gadd is known almost more for his work as a studio and session drummer than a frontman, but when he comes to Porgy & Bess on Oct. 19 he will be fronting his own quartet – Steve Gadd and Friends.

Jack DeJohnette also has an equally impressive resume as a band leader and as a sideman. Though he is most well known as a drummer in the jazz world, he is also a talented pianist and composer. DeJohnette, like Gadd, appeared on the jazz scene during the 60s performing with such greats as Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis. His performance on Davis’ widely successful entrance into the jazz-fusion scene Bitches Brew showcased De Johnette’s talent as a jazz drummer with the chops of an R&B drummer.

This wide range and drive to not limit himself to one style of music has also seen DeJohnette performing with musicians of different backgrounds. DeJohnette will be fronting Jack DeJohnette and the Ripple Effect on Oct. 21, also at the Porgy.

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