MoogFest in New York has become an annual event. MoogFest 2007 was again held at B.B. King's on the 22nd of this month, with Jordan Rudess and Adam Holzman returning to join
Erik Norlander, T Lavitz, Thomas Dolby, Gershon Kingsley and others. With the cameras on keyboard dervishes Jan Hammer, Keith Emerson and Jordan Rudess along with ex-Cure'r Roger O'Donnell and Bernie Worrell of Parliament/Funkadelic and Praxis, MoogFest 2006 was released this last summer on DVD and instantly went down as one of this year's top music video releases.
The keyboard acrobatics begin with three truncated sets: Jordan Rudess hams it up on two originals that recall more his collaborations with Vinnie Moore and Rod Morgenstein than Dream Theater or Liquid Tension Experiment; Bernie Worrell plods along on an electronic piano with his rhythm section and one DJ Logic in tow, a meandering, uninspired vamp that doesn't improve much even when he does get down to some synthin'; Roger O'Donnell performs a rather nice Synergy-esque piece — spiffy soundtrack material.
Inevitably, the show-stealers are Jan Hammer and Keith Emerson — and Jan practically steals the show from Keith. Jan plays with The Mahavishnu Project, the quintet that's already made a name for itself recording fiery new renditions of Mahavishnu Orchestra classics. Quite apt for original Maha Jan to join forces with this talented bunch, no? The Project's keyboardist Adam Holzman is a MoogFest regular, so the audience is at the mercy of a deadly keyboard tandem (Holzman's also using the hit MiniMoog Voyager). The Project plays "Keeping Of The Spirits/Dance Of Maya" and then Jan emerges onstage for a swell version of the title track from Oh, Yeah? If the Hammer hadn't already disclosed he'd not performed live in fifteen (or more) years, he could have left the audience in the dark — literally — as no lag is inherent in his digital dexterity and expressiveness with a pitch bend or mod wheel. The lyrical synth solos come off without a hitch, as do the crisp MiniMoog phrases, the cool pentatonic licks, the mesmerizing Rhodes work — and then there's the call-and-response on "Oh, Yeah?" with violinist Rob Thomas and the duelling with Holzman on the title track from Jeff Beck's Blue Wind. The propulsive Moog bass on "Darkness/Earth In Search Of A Sun" from the classic The First Seven Days resonates with a spiritual intensity. The entire set is nothing short of amazing.
Not afraid to venture off the beaten path, Hammer even presents "Flashback," a beautiful solo piece from his Miami Vice score. The encore is "Led Boots," the sizzling opener from the aforemention Blue Wind. Nothing more need be said!
Keith Emerson seems to again be carrying the flag he himself first hoisted in the 1960s. With Carl Palmer leading his own trio and Greg Lake again touring with a motley crew, Emo looks poised to finally deliver what ELP fans have been waiting for: an album of new music. Emo is again working with past collaborator Marc Bonilla from Dragon Choir, the '90s band in which the two played select dates only in Japan and California. Bonilla's dual role as guitarist and vocalist complements the keyboard histrionics rather well; his predecessor was Dave Kilmister, who's now off earning a paycheck with Roger Waters. The rhythm section of Pete Riley & Phil Williams on drums 'n' bass, respectively, provide a solid foundation. No new material here, just a few ELP classics: a rendition of the elusive "Living Sin," the more-than-well-worn "Lucky Man" from the 1971 debut, and a near-complete "Tarkus." In spite of the lingering effects of problems with his wrist in the '90s, Emo's still up to speed on his trademark piano and organ moves, and his employment of a Moog modular on "Tarkus" is a treat. All this bodes well for a new release — and hopefully a new tour.
1. Phat Overture
– a. Prelude To Phat
– b. Bending The Rules
BERNIE WORRELL & DJ LOGIC
4. This Is A Story
THE MAHAVISHNU PROJECT
5. Keeping Of The Spirits/Dance Of Maya
JAN HAMMER with THE MAHAVISHNU PROJECT
6. Oh, Yeah?
7. Darkness/Earth In Search Of A Sun
9. Blue Wind
10. Led Boots
KEITH EMERSON BAND
11. Living Sin
12. Lucky Man
Total time – 142 Minutes (Approx.)