Last Thursday, June 25, I had the distinct satisfaction of attending a concert by the Jazz Attack (Richard Elliot, Jonathan Butler, and Rick Braun) at one of our esteemed local hot spots for smooth jazz, the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, VA. To say I definitely received my money’s worth is like saying LeBron James is an "o.k." basketball player!
These guys are only one of two acts I’ve seen so far this year that could qualify, in my mind, as the concert of the year. Seriously. Flawlessly exhibiting style, charm, charisma, a genuine love for the music and its fans, the Jazz Attack was the concert you always hope you’ll get but perhaps, more than once and for whatever reason, don’t.
Combining the artsy flair, top-tier skill, and musicianship they each easily and unquestionably possess with comedic barbs and skits to keep the audience engaged and at a fever pitch, the group stormed through a magnificent set (with superb, crisp sound quality, I might add. Kudos to the sound engineer that evening) that left us all gasping and deliciously exhausted.
From trumpet master Rick Braun’s initial kickoff and entrance (through the audience, as is a custom of his) to the familiar sound of his classic “Cadillac Slim” through the fiery, fat sound of sax wiz Richard Elliot’s covers of “Rock Steady” and “Move On Up” in a rousing medley to the ever-effervescent and engaging Jonathan Butler and his jamming opener, “Wake Up,” these guys poured it on non-stop. The magic further included the soulful and nostalgic call of Elliot’s sax on The Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go Round” and the all-too-funky "Who," as well as Butler’s trademark vocal proficiency on "Sarah Sarah," his version of Bob Marley’s gut-wrenching “No Woman, No Cry,” and his spritually uplifting "Brand New Day." There was also Braun's smooth, cool, and tight "Notorious," and a sneak preview of his upcoming album featuring a rhythmic little Latin jazz ditty. The group initially closed with Braun’s always-hot cover of “Grazin’ in the Grass,” then encored with Butler’s “Lies” with plenty of audience participation.
Those in attendance have to feel immensely gratified that they were there. Those outside of the Birchmere circle of fans who have not yet witnessed this experience should definitely watch for it in their respective cities and add it to their must-see list.