Jazz Passenger trombonist

Debbie Does the Commodore

The Jazz Passengers with Deborah Harry
Vancouver International Jazz Festival
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, B.C.
June 23, 1996

Review by Stuart Derdeyn
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

I love the Jazz Passengers, and my Blondie vinyl is as dear to me as my KISS Originals set, so I was ready for this meeting of the minds at the Commodore. Last time through town, this unit played a dis-jointed practice show to a paying crowd. Delightful to see what a year can do to a performance.

Dame Deborah Dame Debbie was in excellent form, sporting high camp fashion and singing her self silly on all the material from the last J.P's release. Obviously, she is supremely comfortable with the format, leaving off mid-phrase to let the improvising go, stepping in to rap/scat her way into the noise, doing a dippy doodly dance step that all the adoring fans stage front kept trying to copy, but missed. That's why the lady is a vamp.

Roy Nathanson On a perfect planet, the Jazz Passengers would be bigger than Mariah Carey, shipping gazillions of units of their demented free-pop sounds to hungry fans all over. Vibes player Bill Ware and the violinist (not Jim Nolet) just smoked all night long. The show belonged to drummer E.J. Rodriguez and bassist Brad Jones, whose impecable meter drive just kept anything from getting looser than it should. 'Bone player Curtis Fowlkes didn't make the gig, but whoever the barefoot, dreadlocked replacement was, he knew his way around the horn.

Roy Nathanson doubles up J.P's front-median Roy Nathanson was in fine form, blowing his sax -- or saxES -- and heckling the crowd and Harry. He kept insisting on calling her Baroness Von Stongbach and telling her to "watch out for the sharks." Harry just kept up by the punch by taunting Nathanson during a twisted version of Blondie's "One Way or Another," when a star-struck (and was that a roll of change or ....) fan hugged Dame Debbie, with lines like "I got one Roy, like you sax?" and other such.

Nathanson told the crowd, "if you care to dance naked on top of the tables, that's strongly encouraged," before a beautiful version of the decidely soft and waltzy "Imitiation of a Kiss." A version of "The Tide is High" kept Dame Deborah the (weak-willed) fans from losing interest after the band went into the stratosphere on an instrumental soca/tango number.

Maybe the only reason, actually the only reason, the show was a sell-out was Harry's presence on stage. That said, she is part of a band now, and a band that anyone with musical appreciation sense can realize are taking pop music into the cutting edge big-time. Catch them anywhere on tour you can. You will love it.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on July 12, 1996

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