(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Bobby Previte’s Voodoo Orchestra North made its debut on Monday night at Club Helsinki Hudson with a scintillating musical journey based on Miles Davis’s landmark jazz-funk recording “Bitches Brew.” The group is due back at Helsinki next Monday night, August 26, 2013, and hopefully this series will become a regular gig, bringing a level of jazz improvisation and virtuosity rarely heard outside of the world’s major cultural capitals and jazz festivals.
From the opening bars, you knew you were in the hands of a master. Leading an octet (or so) of instrumentalists, Previte quarterbacked the players through the general terrain of Davis’s masterpiece. This wasn’t a note-for-note recapitulation. Rather, it was a reconstruction, based on the original structure and riffs, yet allowing these particular musicians their own leeway and expression through what Davis had mapped out.
And why not? As Previte’s band made clear, what Davis wrought was nothing less than a four-movement jazz symphony, and to hear it fresh and live and pulsing and breathing was even better than the real thing. There should be more of these sorts of efforts to breathe new life into jazz classics along the lines of what is accepted as the norm in classical music; indeed, that stupid cliché that “jazz is America’s classical music” could actually mean something if attention and respect is paid to its greatest works, the ones that hold up over time, played by musicians solidly grounded in the tradition but with voices of their own, as was the case on Monday night.
Previte has got to be one of the world’s greatest drummers. This small, wiry guy propelled the small jazz orchestra along with a combination of power and finesse. You know from the get-go you were in the hands of someone who has lived and breathed this music, and his confidence and joy were contagious, taking you along for the ride.
Previte was more than ably assisted by his band of mostly upstate-based players, including Marco Benevento on electric piano and Hudson’s own Otto Hauser, also on drums. While bass guitarist Dave Dreiwitz was locked in tight with Previte, I’m not sure I ever even heard any playing by double-bassist Terence Murren. On the other hand, whenever electric guitarist Mike Gamble played, I looked all over the stage for the other guitarist, convinced I must be listening to two. There was only one, however; Gamble was that good.