In words and music, Eli Fountain and the Percussion Discussion delivered the importance of having music and arts programs as permanent fixtures in the city’s educational curriculum.
“It has been proven that good arts programs are uplifting and beneficial to the entire community,” Fountain told a massive audience Friday evening at Marcus Garvey Park.
His advocacy of enrichment, which he offers each Sunday at Salem Methodist Church in Harlem, was given a musical element when the ensemble opened with an African/Yoruba chant and invocation that segued into several tunes from “Masterpiece,” its recently released CD.
With Fountain at the marimba, the group paid tribute to the peerless drummer Max Roach with a propulsive version of his composition “It’s Time,” matching his rhythmic versatility with a xylophone (Jay Hoggard), vibes (Bryan Carrott), drum set (Reggie Nicholson), tympani (Warren Smith), pans (Lyndon Achee) and timbales and congas (Bobby Sanabria).
There was also a grace note to Monk and then a reprise from the CD “No Fear,” a tune by the late drummer Tony Williams. Hoggard and Carrott, on marimba and vibes respectively, forged the way on this number that begins in a restive mood before exploding, with Nicholson’s drums providing additional impetus to the shifting beat.
Sanabria, who had earlier that day attended his father’s funeral, performed “The Witch Doctor,” a vocalization that isn’t found on the CD’s version of the tune. His chants and manipulation of the shekere enhanced the ritualistic aspects of the song, at the same time summoning the memory of a village shaman.
The percussioneers took the crowd at this last concert of the Jazzmobile season on a veritable symphonic safari as they touched the musical shores of a global Diaspora.
“This is the last concert for this year,” announced Robin Bell-Stevens, Jazzmobile’s executive director and CEO, “and it’s one of our largest turnouts.”
Indeed, and the season ended with a boom, or you might say an MBoom, in memory of the drum corps assembled by Roach and given new life and resurgence by Fountain and the Percussion Discussion. Reggie Woods, whose saxophone was heard in place of Patience Higgins, who appears on the recording, added some spice to the closing numbers.
An encore was answered, in part, with Fountain offering a solo performance at the tympani on “Quiet When the Old Man Speaks.” It was a fitting response, and the old men had spoken, but there was very little quiet from the enthusiastic audience.