[Dixielandjazz] Comics, Jazz, Lincoln Center Acoustics in one review.

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Oct 23 06:44:47 PDT 2004

Check out the last paragraph for a bit about the "acoustics" and Lincoln

Steve Barbone


A Comic and a Band Get Their Licks, and Jokes, In

The program was advertised as "Bill Cosby and the Lincoln Center Jazz
Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis." So Thursday night's concert at Rose Theater
could have been the thing Mr. Cosby has been doing at jazz festivals for
years: jokily directing a jazz band through familiar standards, partly
behind his own drum set. It's a good-natured ritual, but for a man publicly
obsessed with maintaining high standards, it sets its own bar pretty low.

Happily, this was different. First, the orchestra played a short opening set
of jazz tunes that deal with humor. Some were directly representational (Mr.
Marsalis's Ellingtonian "Back to Basics," which portrays laughter through a
trumpet), some just sounded happy-go-lucky (Thelonious Monk's singsong
"Green Chimneys") and some were jazz's best novelty songs ("Salt Peanuts"
and "Open the Door, Richard"). Then Mr. Cosby performed stand-up comedy for
90 minutes, using a reduced version of the orchestra behind him to cue
incidental music to his routines.

Mr. Cosby, 67, has made many speeches this year cautioning poor black
parents against lax child-rearing; he has been strengthening his role as the
grandfatherly voice of black American bootstrapping. And though he shared
the bandstand with Mr. Marsalis, whose public pronouncements on the vacuity
of popular culture have much in common with Mr. Cosby's, it wasn't an
evening of indignation.

Mr. Cosby's set was "Fat Albert"-style humor: re-enactments of sweet and
awkward childhood moments from the time he lived in a north Philadelphia
housing project, with a particular insistence on getting the details right.

Dressed in a Yale sweatshirt and sweatpants, tube socks and sandals, he
first came out and just danced stiffly, over a walking blues, for a few
minutes. He went back to age 6, describing his "three levels of begging" to
wheedle 15 cents out of his parents. ("Level 3 was mucus," he explained,
snuffling and moaning in anguish to demonstrate.) He advanced to age 10,
acting out his squeamish revulsion when he watched his friend's older
brother making out with a girlfriend. And then he broached the only part of
the act that might be considered PG-rated: the horrible onset of nocturnal

Later, there was a spin-the-bottle story. (It was also a first-kiss story.)
And a story about how 14-year-old boys talk to one another about "getting
some" when they aren't and know the others aren't either, but let that pass.
And asides like this: "The porch was invented by a housewife who wanted her
husband out of the house but close enough that she could call him and have
him move something heavy." And a story about Mr. Cosby's recent call to his
friend, the Basie band saxophonist Frank Foster, who has suffered a stroke.
"Frank," Mr. Cosby said to him, trying to think of something to say that
would cheer him up, "could you pay me the money you owe me now?" What
followed was the imitation of someone swearing through partial paralysis.

Mr. Cosby's humor is an institution for all America, but this wasn't a
casino or a general-interest crowd; it was jazz-oriented Manhattanites.
Given what stand-up comedy has become, it was astonishing how much of the
show seemed intended for an audience of children. But Mr. Cosby sharpened
his mild stories with timing and nuance and the credible voices of
characters from childhood to senility.

The humor of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra's set stayed mostly on the
nudge-wink frequency. The band is still settling into the acoustical
properties of its new Rose Theater and played a lot of its set with
remarkable quietness. The great news is that you can hear everything, from
Eric Lewis's softest piano notes to Herlin Riley's subtlest brush detail on
the drums. 

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