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The Jazz Passengers
with Deborah Harry

A Concert Review

February 23, 1997

The House of Blues

Chicago, IL

A Review by
The Dude on the Right
I thought I would start this review with a letter.

Dear Jazz Passengers and Debbie Harry,
Welcome to Chicago and maybe one of the rudest (or should that be most rude?) crowds I have ever seen at a show. I've always been told that Chicago people are a kinder and gentler sort than those from New York City, but after being at your show on February 23rd at the House of Blues in Chicago I now have my doubts. I thought you performed great considering most of the crowd should have been at a corner bar rather than a concert venue. If it was me on stage I probably would have lost composure and told those people to shut the hell up or go home. Anyway, I just wanted to say I enjoyed your show and look forward to seeing all of you someplace where the people will listen to the show rather than talk about their convention and taking a double-decker tour of Chicago. Hey, maybe a lot of those people weren't actually from Chicago but just tourists at the House of Blues? For the reputation of the people of Chicago I can only hope. Oh well, take care and have fun touring and working on your new CD.
The Dude on the Right

Well, in case you couldn't figure out from that letter to the band, The Jazz Passengers and Debbie Harry put on a great show recently at the House of Blues, it's just too bad there seemed to be so many tourists ruining the show for the rest of us. Spotlighting many of the songs from their recent CD, "Individually Twisted," the band put on about an hour and 15 minute performance of music that stretches jazz into chaos and then back again.

But let's start at the beginning. We get to the venue and are walking around a little bit. I realize that they have seats in the main-floor area which is a change from the rest of the times I've been at the House of Blues. Great, a couple of seats are open and me and Music Dude proceed to kick back and relax and wait for the show to start. The only problem is, well, remember those wooden fold-up chairs you had to sit in when you were in grade school. Those were the type of seats they had. Let's just say I've gotten a little bit larger over the years and those have to be some of the most uncomfortable seats in the world for an adult. Well, the curtain opens and out come Roy Nathanson on all the sax's, Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, Bill Ware on vibraphone, E.J. Rodriguez on drums, Brad Jones on string bass, and Rob Thomas on violin. They proceed into a little jam and the out comes Debbie Harry to lead us through the evening.

As I said, most of the material highlighted their recent CD, but with a lot more solo spots for each of the members. The only weird thing is that the solos were all at the same time. Yep, and somehow they pulled this off, you've got Roy doing his thing, Curtis doing his thing, Bill, E.J. Brad, and Rob doing their own things, and yet somehow all of it fits. And between the solos you've got Debbie Harry, spunky little attitude and all, blasting away and looking like she was having a good old time. In fact, the entire band looked like they were having a good time, although sometimes they seemed a little annoyed by the people who wouldn't shut up.

A couple of other things really impressed me, either that or I just couldn't remember from my younger years. I'm sitting there and I realize that Debbie, or as Roy called her, Baroness von Schwimmingbad, has a great voice and great range. Roy did his own impressing of the crowd by handling two sax's at once (I've seen a guy handle three at the same time so I wasn't that impressed - although it is cool to see two), but I thought Bill Ware on vibraphone was phenomenal.

The Jazz Passengers have an interesting mix because they can in no way be categorized as jazz in the traditional sense. Sometimes all of them seem to be in their own little world when they are playing, but whether by luck, accident, or being from the same musical planet, it all works together. Anyway, as the night continued on, between the conversations of Double-Decker bus tours and some lady who really must have loved Debbie (how do I know? Well, she screamed "I love you Debbie!" between every song), I got to hear some pretty cool music and the fans who were actually there to see the show seemed to enjoy it. About the only time some of the rest of the crowd shut up was when the band kicked into "the national anthem of a very small country," a slow, jazzy version of the Blondie classic "One Way or Another."

The band wasn't done yet, they were back out for an encore of "The Tide is High," highlighted for me by seeing Curtis, the trombone dude with a really deep voice, singing high-pitched "Woo, Woo, Ooh's" during the song. And you know what else highlighted that song? Well, while the bass dude, vibe dude, and drum dude were jammin' to close the song the crowd was joined by Roy, Curtis, and Debbie for a brief little run around the House of Blues. That was cool, but the funny part was the annoying "I love you Debbie" lady left before the encore, and she would have been standing right where the band went by.

All in all, The Jazz Passengers put on a really interesting show, I just wish they were playing at a more intimate venue, or at least where the people aren't as rude. The crowd that seemed to be there to see the band liked them, and they are who matter so it's TWO THUMBS UP for The Jazz Passengers, especially for not losing their cool while the tourists lined the bars and annoyed the rest of us.

That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right! L8R!!


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