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Winter Jazzfest 2014: Revive Big Band with Bilal and Dr. Lonnie Smith

winter jazzfest, revive big band

It was a bit of a late night last night at LPR, but Igmar Thomas' Revive Big Band (no website) made it worth the wait. Headlining the third of this week's lead-up events to the 10th annual Winter Jazzfest Marathon—which kicks off tonight at a half dozen West Village venues—Revive tore through a two-hour set of originals by Thomas, as well as arrangements of classics by Thelonious Monk, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, and others. He also has one foot planted firmly in the hip-hop world, which he sees as just two sides of the same coin.

"We're carrying on, within the tradition of big bands, what would be relevant today," Thomas says. "[We're] modifying the message and making it translatable, accessible to the people, so that they have something relevant to grasp on to. It represents that little bridge."

Thomas, who's also a trumpeter in fellow Berklee graduate Esperanza Spalding's band, is clearly ambitious beyond his years, having recruited major players such as Marcus Strickland, Tia Fuller, and Frank Lacy, resulting in a crack band that can swing while being super tight. Thomas also trotted out some killer guests last night, including tumpeter Sean Jones, tenor Greg Osby, and the uncategorizable Bilal, who sang in a high-pitched freestyle over Thomas' arrangements.


But, the real star of the evening was living legend Dr. Lonnie Smith, who at 71 shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. When Smith took the stage, Thomas wisely stepped aside, watching from the floor as Smith put on a clinic from his Hammond B3. Even the rest of the band couldn't help but watch, their mouths wide open in dumbstruck amazement. Eventually, Thomas got up and led the way out on his heavily syncopated "Runnin' Out of Time." Check it out below.

More pics on the photo page.