Bernard Purdie at the Cadence Jazz Festival

David Haney, Andre St. James, Bernard PurdieI went to the last night of Cadence Fest on Tuesday. Cadence, a well-respected jazz magazine, has been reborn thanks to the efforts of jazz pianist David Haney (left), who put on the festival as an extension of his magazine work. (Willamette Week did a nice write-up about him before the festival.)

I managed to catch a set by the Rich Halley Group, which was neat. Halley, a saxophonist, played with a trombonist, bassist, and drummer. I’m not usually a big fan of really free jazz, but I found it was a lot more approachable when I could see the musicians cue off of each other.

But the real reason I was there had to do with the headliner: David Haney was playing with bassist Andre St. James, and a drummer named Bernard “Pretty” Purdie. As a drummer, I’ve been a fan for a long time — I’ve been listening to tracks he’s recorded for most of my life (I’ll bet you have, too. Check out a list of his top 100 tracks.) But I’ve never seen him live.

The trio was great. Haney actually took the stage wearing a winter coat, a sport coat, and a scarf, like a commuter on the bus. But Haney plays piano unlike almost anyone I’ve ever seen — his right foot taps, his legs kick out, and he lurches around on the bench. If there’s such a thing as a physical piano player, he is one. All that motion warmed him up, and he took off the jacket, then peeled off the sport coat during a song. One song later, the scarf joined the jacket and the coat on the floor next to the piano. It was like the dance of the seven veils.

As good as Haney and St. James are, I was mostly focused on Purdie. For the most part he was just comping, and didn’t even solo. But even compared to the drummer that preceded him, Purdie was smoother, his time was perfect, and his dynamics (variation in volume) were just effortless. He was so technically adept that when he was playing a fill, his hands would just bring his idea to life.

Purdie is now 73, so I’m feeling lucky that he came out one night to help out his friend’s jazz festival. I can only hope he decides to do it more often.

When Celebrities Compare Hair

I have my first piece in The Nervous Breakdown, “an online literary publication type deal.” It’s titled “A Tale of Two Nominees: Justin Bieber and Esperanza Spalding,” and it uses the 2011 Grammy awards as a pivot to discuss two very different types of musicians. Bieber you might have heard of. Spalding is a jazz bassist and vocalist.

(Please go read the article. And leave a comment at the end. For complicated technical reasons, the piece had a rough birth, so it didn’t get a lot of promotion. Thus, the comment stream consists mostly of my mom’s friends, which is gratifying, but also makes me feel like a nine year old who’s full of promise … but I digress.)

When I wrote the piece, I spent a little time researching Bieber, especially since I heard that after Spalding won the Grammy for Best New Artist, instead of him, he went to congratulate her. (MTV has video of that encounter, but it’s tiny and inaudible.)

What’s a lot more prominent is a cringe-worthy interview of them together, apparently jammed onto the same stool, where they compliment each other, and each other’s hair … and then Bieber pets her hair.

After I saw Esperanza Spalding perform, I wanted to write about her, and realized that the notoriety she gained after Bieber fans attacked her Wikipedia page made Justin Bieber and appropriate comparison.

But after suffering through that video of him and Spalding at the Grammys, I’m pretty sure I’ll never write about Bieber again.