Dinner Party, the supergroup comprised of Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, and Kamasi Washington, played a one-off show at Terminal 5.
Supergroups can always be a risky move. More often than not, the members are all greater than the sum of their parts and fans can be left feeling let down with the creative output that, on paper reads as dream-like material, but in reality can come across as overblown and unfocused. Dinner Party, a jazz collective, strikes a steady balance somewhere in between. With few live performances under their belt, the one-off show felt like a real treat to see these talents gather on stage and each of them made sure to bring their best efforts forward. On the keys, Glasper dazzled the crowd with his stirring flows, well-timed humor, and creative storytelling. Across the stage and also on keys (and sometimes saxophone), Terrace Martin plowed through the night with his auto-tuned vocals and impressive piano skills that provided a crucial balance to Glasper. In the middle stood Kamasi Washington, the saxophone vanguard who has helped usher in a new wave of jazz to indie fans, blowing his horn with paramount precision and crystal clear focus, lighting up the night and without question receiving the highest praise of anyone on stage from the legions of fans spread across the venue. Before dropping into their latest single (this week's "Insane"), Martin and Glasper told stories of how the two met at jazz camp one year in Vail, Colorado, which set off an immediate spark between the two that has resulted in a life-long friendship while Martin recalled growing up in the Crenshaw district of LA and hearing about a burgeoning saxophonist from Inglewood who was deemed to be of even greater talent. Alas, another friendship blossomed as the two first played together with the late great Wayne Shorter. After some serious talking, the band took to the groove and unleashed several sprawling jams that bordered into jam band territory with endless melody and spiraling guitar solos that, at times, felt aimless and never ending. That's not to say the night was a slog, but there were moments where things seemed to veer a little off course, losing a connection between the people on stage and also losing those in the crowd. However, when the attention was sharp and the three "leaders" of the band locked into their grooves, everything fell firmly back into place and watching them play off each other became a truly mesmerizing site. Dabbling in tracks outside their lone EP, it was entrancing to hear three of the members who contributed the arrangements to Kendrick Lamar's stunning masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly bring part of that to life (as well as another long tale about how those tracks came to be) as well as Washington's own "Fists of Fury." Interpolations of other classics found their way into the set too as the DJ dropped Biggie's icon opening of "Juicy" and Glasper revved up the crowd with the chant of Coltrane's timeless "a love supreme" which seemed to float gently over the audience in a powerful moment of bliss. The night ended with "Freeze Tag," another stand out of the night, and as the whole crew came back together, it was one more emotional high for the evening that left things on a pedestal, ready to be admired. With so much talent on stage, things can often go wrong and while there were moments that felt like the night was slipping away, those that stuck firmly together made it all worthwhile.