“I’ll Remember April!”

Posted on in Art + Soul by Roy Strassman

The Spring Quartet @ SFJAZZ, April 24, 2019

The Spring Quartet may well have sprung just for this gig, but let me be the first to raise my glass. The musicians took the stage unceremoniously, but the audience’s electric anticipation could have powered the whole city. Amidst the other three luminaries already in the jazz pantheon, the lesser-known Leo Genovese seemed to have appeared from out of nowhere—by way of Argentina. Before the set, few in the audience or even on the staff knew who he was. More about him later.

Some of the performance included spring-themed jazz standards such as “I’ll Remember April,” “Joy Spring,” “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” and “It Might as Well Be Spring.” Intermixed were the band members’ fine self-penned tunes. Esperanza had written a gripping song-poem entitled “Nature,” a peevish but plangent—and courteously sarcastic—tirade against greedy and often faceless titans of the music industry.

The musicianship was stellar, with DeJohnette being a Paul Motian-like fine wine, Lovano being avuncularly hip, and Esperanza being, well, Esperanza. The big surprise of the evening was pianist Leo Genovese. At first he just seemed to fit in appropriately enough, but then he damn near knocked me off my chair once he began to solo. Influenced by no less than Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner, and the formidable Andrew Hill, his playing was creatively ablaze and his technique dazzling. Like a just-launched rocket, he would seemingly depart from the tune’s atmosphere and even ionosphere, squiggling and quiggling off, deep into an outer orbit, only later to return to the groove—and landing with lethal force reminiscent of McCoy’s left hand. He is an exciting player, devastatingly fluent in irregular and disjointed time-shifting figures executed with flawless technique.

Then there is Esperanza, in a league and a galaxy all her own, a 34-year-old magical child and prodigy who is supremely effortless in her playing and singing. Nothing gets in the way of her brilliant channel and energies. Sporting a slanted Afro and dressed in an all-white cotton jumpsuit with a crimson heart on the sleeve, she was a joyful angel-in-motion, but one driving the soul train. Her natural body movements were lithe and blithe, and her ever-changing facial expressions beckoned us to share in the experience of her transcendent musical spirit.


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