DJ Logic -- Cajun House, Scottsdale: Extremely focused and fresh live band infused with late-Miles sensibilities mixes and matches seamlessly with spinmaster Jason Kibler (he's Logic).
Jill Scott -- Celebrity Theatre: Philadelphia soul sister wowed the packed house at this venerable theater-in-the-round, saucy, sultry and sunny all at once. And what a smile. Her new live album, recorded in Washington, D.C., a few weeks after this date, will let you hear what you missed.
Tool/Tricky -- Cricket Pavilion: Tricky had a tall task, opening for megapopular Tool before, how to put this, an "anxious" audience at the big west-side venue. But he and his tight band played as if this were their last gig, and much of the crowd appreciated it. Then came Tool, a powerhouse quartet fronted by offbeat lead singer Maynard James Keenan, who gyrated in his skivvies at the rear of the stage and howled like he meant it.
Jeff Beck -- Web Theatre: Don't demean yourself by calling this guitar god a dinosaur because he's far from extinct. Of all the rock legends of the 1960s, Beck is the only one (Hendrix is dead, after all) who's continued to take his music to the next level. Still machine-gun fast when he wants to be, Beck's genius shows in his improvisations over ever-shifting polyrhythmic underpinnings. Everyone loved this show, including D-Backs superstar Randy Johnson, who led a standing ovation when it was over.
Steve Lacy -- Rhythm Room: You gotta hand it to Bob Corritore, a wonderful musician himself who runs this topnotch little blues joint. In 2001, Bob booked some of jazz's most innovative national musicians, usually for 6 p.m. sets before getting back to his bread-and-butter for the rest of the night. In March, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy -- a charter member of what someone ineptly once dubbed the jazz "avant-garde" -- led a stellar trio in a set that was ever-inventive, often swinging, and utterly accessible. Underrated bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel proved as muscular a bass player as you'll ever hear.
John Scofield -- Rhythm Room: How this guy finds time to record is a mystery, he's on the road so much. Sco bounced through Phoenix plugging a new record (Works for Me) with a kick-ass band in tow, including the equally wonderful Bill Stewart on drums, and Seamus Blake on sax. Sco dedicated the set to beloved drummer Billy Higgins, who'd died the day before.
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Mingus Big Band -- Scottsdale Center for the Arts: Most jazzbos rank Charles Mingus up there with Ellington, Monk and Coltrane, and with good reason: For one thing, his compositions, while often intricate and exacting, are built to be improvised upon, and improvisation is the lifeblood of any jazz musician worth his or her salt. Case in point was the Scottsdale gig, at which 14 of New York's very best collaborated to celebrate Mingus Music at this acoustically superior hall. Near the end of the set, saxophonist (and excellent composer in his own right) John Stubblefield proved that he's one of the absolute great ones.
The Roots -- Club Rio, Tempe: This group is everything that's good about hip-hop -- serious, well-schooled musicians, lyrics that run the gamut from poignant to just plain nasty, and a world-class drummer (Ahmir Thompson) who doesn't miss a thing. The band seemed to revel in the loosy-goosy venue, and performed until the exhausted house manager finally turned on the lights.
Fishbone -- The Bash on Ash, Tempe: Seeing Fishbone playing this half-filled Tempe club last fall was a bit of a downer. Oh, the music was excellent, at times scintillating, as the Los Angeles-based band performed its greatest hits ("Party at Ground Zero" was a particularly passionate selection, coming as it did two weeks after 9-11-01). The unexpected melancholia came from knowing that this innovative band never has reached the heights of popularity that it so justly deserved. Bad timing, bad luck, however you cut it, Fishbone has been playing little clubs for far too long. That said, they still kick ass.
Medeski, Martin & Wood -- Nita's Hideaway, Tempe: Perhaps the hottest live jazz trio on the planet, these fellows have been doing music together for years, and it shows. They twist and turn their compositions around effortlessly, extending the music and themselves each time they've played in these parts. A perfect summer evening, an outdoor gig, a hardworking trio: Very fine stuff.