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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

June 23, 2009 at 9:28 AM

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Review: Karriem Riggins Virtuoso Experience, or USA! A-OK!

Posted by Andrew Matson

I'm sick (like sick-sick, not fake-sick) and was last night, also. Made it out to Triple Door for Karriem Riggins (met him in person, too; super nice guy...), but was a little out of sorts. Notes were taken, but man, they're sure hard to read. And I forgot to charge my camera's battery. So no photos, no video.

I will say though, after my older brother and I conversed about what we'd just seen, we felt DAMN PROUD TO BE AMERICANS.

Karriem Riggins illustrated democracy in action, and exhibited mastery of the last great American musical artforms, jazz and hiphop, with crazy taste and authenticity. Other countries might copy what happened, but it really couldn't have gone down anywhere else. Add that to the fact the Karriem Riggins Virtuoso Experience happens only a few more times, in Minneapolis and Oakland, and last night just gets rarer.

"Karriem Riggins Virtuoso Experience" sounds like a one-man show, but could not have been more democratic. Mulgrew Miller (piano), Joe Sanders (upright bass), Warren Wolf (vibes), and DJ Dummy (turntables) shone equally bright and with glorious diversity.

Miller was the Bernie Mac-dressing old guy, Sanders the dreadlocked bohemian, Wolf the jock (looked like an NFL player/stay-at-home dad), Dummy the cool rap cat, and Riggins was just classy, seemingly an amalgamation of the personalities orbiting him on stage.

He introduced his band members as "geniuses" and didn't take a proper drum solo until the end of the show.

Everybody seemed awed to share the stage with the venerable Mulgrew Miller, especially when they played one of his own compositions, the worn-in "11th Hour," for which Miller did an extended solo piano intro. On Steinway and Rhodes, he was smooth as glass.

Throughout, Wolf was a fury on the vibes. Sanders' bass was a lesson in what bass should sound like (super deep and loud, but not distorted), and also what Triple Door's speakers can do (make it sound like you're inside the instruments).

Dummy's routine with the "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine" part of Biggie's "10 Crack Commandments" elicited major crowd noise. He and Riggins performed as a duo for a while, enacting hiphop beats by the late, great J Dilla. "One of the coldest producers of our time, and one of my best friends," said Riggins.

This was the most head-nod-inducing portion of a seriously head-nod-heavy concert, with Dummy's turntables eking slack guitar, noodly kazzoo, and heavy vibes melodies. He was pretty good on the volume and fader knobs, too.

The whole concert, Riggins absolutely murdered his drum set with sticks, wire brushes, and bundles of micro-kindling. He showed his work in a way that let the audience in on what he was doing, splashing this way and that, even though what he was doing was clearly more complicated than anyone else could understand.

He was the only one who spoke into a microphone, introducing songs ("This one's called 'Protocosmos'") and composers ("That last one was by Nicholas Payton; we plan on doing an album together," "This one's by Lawrence Williams, called 'Number Three'"). He messed around with Burt Bacharach's "Wives and Lovers," sometimes playing the waltz beat super-simply, as if just to show how far he has to tone himself down to play like a normal person.

It was an incredible evening. Triple Door looked about two-thirds full (for shame, Seattle!), and the only people I recognized in the audience were hiphop DJs (Marc Sense and the so underrated Topspin). After the show, I spoke briefly with Riggins (he read my article and liked it!), shook hands with B+, photographer and videographer extraordinaire who'd been taping the whole thing on stage, and walked into warm, gray downtown Seattle feeling more artistic than I have in months.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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