Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Birthday Bash - Blue Whale - 5/4/12
Better than...celebrating Craig Ferguson's birthday.
Violist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson is a really a nice guy - a "beautiful cat" as they might say in advance jazz speak. He radiates an openness and familiarity that few musicians possess and that helps when you want to get fifteen friends together to play some music at the Blue Whale for your birthday. Last Friday, before a sold out crowd, Atwood-Ferguson did just that in a confident display of bandleading chops and communal reverence.
Why is it that at birthday shows the honoree always seems to do the most work? Atwood-Ferguson, celebrating his 32nd, must have been a busy man leading up to this show. Not only did he arrange almost every chart, but just the rehearsals and the amount of phone calls involved in assembling this all-star group must have taken days. He's got an adventurous repertoire and knack for assembling supergroups.
After a lengthy delay that can be chalked up to revelry and the longest line for the bar I've ever seen at the Blue Whale, Atwood-Ferguson wordlessly took to the stage backed by a 12 piece band that included a handful of woodwinds, a guitar/piano/bass/drum rhythm section plus assorted percussionists. Ushered in by Carlos Nino's shimmering sleigh bells, the group embarked upon a fully-composed introduction entitled "Peace on Earth." The vibes were set in motion.
The group picked up the tempo with a driving hi-hat from drummer Zach Harmon and Vardan Ovsepian's lower register piano. Flutist Katisse Buckingham, a featured soloist on nearly every song of the first set, offered a muscled flutter as Atwood-Ferguson conducted with all parts of his body. Ovsepian provided a dashing and deliberate solo before making way for guitarist Charles Altura's spacious one. Altura, who also shreds in Stanley Clarke's band, was a frequent mystery to the crowd with hushed whispers quietly expressing awe. He cut loose a barrage of notes to close his solo before Atwood-Ferguson and Buckingham drew out the ending in tight formation.