Ear-ringingly good jazz and a high energy performance earns encore
Half the fun of going to a live event is the experience. There’s nothing quite like the rush of hearing a live band blare into life amongst a crowd of people. Nick La Riviere and the Best Laid Plans inspired that kind of experience at Hermann’s Upstairs on July 16.
Nick La Riviere and the Best Laid Plans is a 10-piece jazz band with La Riviere on trombone and vocals (and couch shells), Miguel Valdes on trumpet, Barrie Sorensen on sax, Kelly Fawcett on guitar and vocals, Attila Fias on keys, Louis Rudner on bass, and Alex Campbell on drums. That night, the band included three guest singers — Lauren Marshall, Amanda Nielsen, and Alli Bean.
A word to describe their music? Loud. Ear-ringing loud. They certainly embody big-band music and have the energy to keep up the excitement through two sets, including a couple slower songs. With a mix of covers and original music from their new album Get Ready! there was something for all jazz fans to enjoy. There was a distinct ‘dad music’ energy to the concert, which isn’t a bad thing.
The band’s music is influenced by modern New Orleans music: all horns and high energy. It’s the best kind of music for dancing. The concert was split into two sets. The first covered older and classic jazz songs, and the second blared songs from Get Ready! the Best Laid Plans definitely used the covers to hook the audience into their style of jazz before segueing into their original music. It was a smart way to build up the energy of the audience and then transition into something new.
The energy of the set did dip during two slower songs in the second set. Not that the songs were bad, just slightly different from the rest of the line-up. One was a more meditative piece that you can tell was written during the pandemic. The slow songs stood out from the other higher-energy songs, but it was only after the return to those energetic songs that people got up and danced for the last songs of the night. And it earned the Best Laid Plans an encore.
One song that didn’t really land for me personally was “No More,” written as a response to gun violence several years ago. It felt a little too vague to really add anything to the conversation — a problem of being a bit too broad in its subject material.
Still, If you’re a fan of jazz, you can’t go wrong with the Best Laid Plans. All the performers have clearly been playing jazz for a long time, and you can hear that experience and technical mastery when they play. The horns can take insane high notes while still sounding like they belong in the song instead of feeling like the performers are showing off for the sake of showing off. Each high energy song gave at least three of the performers a solo, and they each took the opportunity to really own that time. Sometimes solos can feel like something tacked onto a song, but The Best Laid Plans made sure that solos were incorporated well. They all sounded like they belonged, and didn’t eat up any of the energy. If anything, the solos served as a chance to build the energy back up again, which made the songs feel like they kept going and going.
So much of the experience was enhanced by seeing the band in person. High energy music feels different when enjoyed among a large crowd of people. Even though I was seated perhaps a little too close to the amps, and at times the trumpet was all I could hear, there was no denying that the music was a huge mood booster. Sometimes, music is best enjoyed live and in a room of dancing strangers.
More information about Nick La Riviere and the Best Laid Plans can be found at their website.