Let me start by saying that saxman/meteorologist Tony Craddock, Jr. and his band Cold Front do have a great onstage presence, theme, and motif. The strategy to capture and keep the attention of the audience seemed to be quite effective.
While the saxman doesn’t have an abundance of original material in his repertoire at this time (he is working on a third album, however), his choice of tunes for his set clearly demonstrated his grasp on how to fire up his live performance. Let me walk you through the cool late-Spring breeze that wafted through the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club last Wednesday night before a packed house of concert-goers.
The first sign that Craddock takes his live set seriously and gives much thought as to how to make it strong was his introduction. With the rest of the band assembled onstage, Craddock spoke offstage in a commanding yet soothing, refreshing tone as he introduced himself and his background and the rationale for the theme that drives his show. To rousing applause, he then walked onto the stage with a beaming smile and the backdrop of rolling clouds (one of many visuals that would prove to be as integral a part of his stage presence as the set itself).
Opening with the title track from his 2013Convection release, the DC-area resident quickly whipped the supportive and attentive audience into a groove that would last all night.
Cold Front is comprised of Ashli Rice (vocals), Felipe Paccagnella (piano/keyboards), Johnnie Castro (bass), Corey Wilson (drums), and Eric Perez (percussion), and they collectively proved to be a very competent and solid group thoroughly enjoying itself and the audience’s appreciation. Throughout the evening, members would step forward to exhibit their individual strong talents (Rice’s strong vocals, Paccagnella’s masterful piano skills, Castro’s commanding bass work, Wilson’s solid drumming, and Perez’s rhythmic dance on percussion all more than complemented Craddock’s sax.
In addition to a few Craddock originals, the band offered very clever interpretations and improvisations on such tunes as Jeff Lorber’s “Rain Dance” (wonderful demo on how well the saxman works the fusion element), the late Wayman Tisdale’s “Brazilia,” another great display of the groove mechanics of fusion on Chick Corea’s “Spain,” Sade’s “Sweetest Taboo,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” They also offered an interesting arrangement of Ronny Jordan’s “After Hours,” setting the late acid jazz guitarist’s smooth riffs to sax. Nicely done, but I’m still a huge fan of the Jordan original as I feel that particular track is definitely better suited for guitar. Still, Craddock sold his version well, judging from the audience’s robust reaction.
Other cool iterations of some classics were offered, and they all obviously further endeared the riveted audience to the saxman.
A warm night outside met a cool set inside, and the contrast was much appreciated — as was the impressive set by the weatherman with a penchant for sax and smooth jazz. — Ronald Jackson
Photos by Dwynn Barr