First listen to the Birds of Flame at the Greenfield Grille in Greenfield, MA.
The Greenfield Grille is a cozy bar/restaurant with a great set up for the band. There were crescent tables with table cloths, candles, dinner and drinks. Nice ! The band had a stage with a dance floor in front. This gave them the space they needed both to invite the crowd to groove to their sensational vibe, and they also used the area to totally jam out with each other during the show.
The Birds of Flame bill themselves as a tribute band to the great Mahavishnu Orchestra of the 1970's and 1980's. They are jazz fusion, rock, funk and world music. Their Facebook page mentions Weather Report as well. The members are :
Chris Devine - Violin
Bob Cummings - Keyboards
Chris Dixon - Guitar
Randy Tougas - Bass
Gary Rzab - Drums
From what I observed, this is the short list of instruments that they brought to the show and that these guys can play. I said this when I wrote my review of YES last year, some bands are musicians' bands. The talent in the musicianship is so technically brilliant, it is beyond the lay person's grasp. Chris Devine, played the electric violin, but also plays guitar and sax I hear, and probably more. Bob Cummings had multiple keyboards, plus a strap on keyboard which he used to create individual and group soundscapes as well as spar and jam with both Devine and the rest of the band. Chris Dixon played electric guitar, and treated us to some Beck- the REAL Beck they say- at the end of the set. He also had a collection of percussion instruments off to the side that he played from time to time. Randy Tougas kept the solid foundation with his base and effortlessly moved through the changing tempos. Gary Rzah is said to be the 'artist' of the band and was center stage with his drums, often the focus of the songs, as the jazz phrasing blended together.
I arrived at the show a bit late and one of the first things I saw was Chris Devine playing the violin like a guitar- with the bow in his teeth! He switched from using his hand to his bow in this particular song and the sounds were amazing!
The musicians had been playing in different bands with different genres for years, but always loved jazz fusion and their collective experience made them good enough to take up the "hobby" of recreating the Mahavishnu Orchestra catalog. Hobby ? These complicated songs came at us with rapid fire speed and the technical precision blew us away. One of the musicians said, "This ain't the blues-" They required impeccable timing, responsive flexibility and absolute mastery of every note they were playing. I've seen a lot of bands, and one thing I notice is how they interact together, how they cue each other to keep their timing. The Birds of Flame were not only so well versed in this music, but so comfortable with each other, that they blasted through fantastic pieces without even the need to temper each other. That being said, they laughed and smiled constantly, because they seemed to completely love this music and be thrilled to be playing it live.
The relationship with the crowd was new and fresh. This band had great stage presence. They interacted with the audience, creating that extra element of anticipation from the crowd. They also educated us about the names of songs, the structure of the music and joked all the while about how complicated it was- yet they were friendly, unpretentious.
Some highlights of the show were the instrumental solos, especially when they teamed up and did them in duos. They moved to the dance floor and just jammed out, and it was so fun and amazing to watch - brilliant. Then they'd blend back together to create that cohesive sound that you enjoy from jazz fusion. Oh- yeah, and they played with so much power and enthusiam and had so many instruments, that they blew out the electricity in the entire facility ! We stayed, hoping they'd work it out- and they did. They came back with another set and rocked the house. There were also a few bars of Kashmir played- beautifully -with the electric guitar and violin- whooooosh !!
Check out some first listen-clips: Birds of Flame:
More videos can be seen on our YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/bluebirdreviews
- Meeting of the Spirits
- Open Country Joy
- Miles Beyond
- Hope/Dance of Maya (all Mahavishnu Orchestra)
- FRED (Allan Holdsworth/Tony Williams Lifetime)
- Teen Town (Weather Report)
- Frankenstein (Edgar Winter Group)
- Freedom Jazz Dance/Donna Lee (Eddie Harris/Charlie Parker)
- Take It Off The Top (Dixie Dregs)
- Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (Return To Forever)
- New Country (Jean-Luc Ponty)
- Sister Andrea (Jan Hammer/Mahavishnu Orchestra)
- Cruise Control (Dixie Dregs)
- BirdsOFire/One Time (Mahavishnu Orchestra/David Sancious)
- Led Boots/Resolution/Scatterbrain (Jeff Beck/Mahavishnu Orchestra)
Encore: Celestial Terrestrial Commuters (Mahavishnu Orchestra)
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