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Jammin’: Savion Glover.

Come on Get Tappy
By Mae G. Banner

Savion Glover with TiDii
The Egg, Aug. 3

When the house music is “Take the A Train,” you know you’re at a jazz concert. From the first moments of Savion Glover’s two-hour, no intermission, no letup jam, Saturday at the Egg, the audience knew they were hearing a jazz musician.

Glover is not the conventional, Hollywood-style flash tapper who wears a tux and a big smile. In fact, he satirized that showbiz invention in Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk.

He is a hoofer, a musician whose instruments are his feet. “A hoofer dances from the waist down. I’m not concerned with the visual presentation, but with the music. We solo. We jam,” Glover said in a recent interview.

The full house at the Egg got the full jazz treatment. Working with his seven-member ensemble, TiDii, and a four-man combo, Glover riffed, changed and traded solos with his fellow musicians. His body slightly bent, he would look at the floor, his ear attuned to its sonic vibrations as he set up a counter-rhythm to the long lines of Patience Higgins on sax or flute, the advanced bop of Tommy James on piano, or the tasteful comping of Gregory Jones on bass and Cecil Brooks III on drums.

Listening to Glover’s extended dialogues with the piano or sax took me back to the Bluebird in Detroit, where Miles Davis would stand in one spot and let the music do the talking. The hoofer and his colleagues held conversations among equals, jamming to Monk’s “Well You Needn’t,” to “Night in Tunisia,” and even, “My Favorite Things,” which proves you can tap to any music, as surely as you can jam to any tune.

When it comes to the visual aspect, Glover’s persona takes care of that. He’s concentrating intensely on the sound, yet he’s supremely loose. While his feet are beating polyrhythms that run from ruffles to rim shots, he lets his unchoreographed arms fling or flop loose. Students of African dance will recognize the rounded body and the pelvic impetus that lets the arms fly freely.

Glover will skip across the stage in giant skidding steps to travel from a close encounter with the sax to a face-off with the piano. As he rides the air, his long dreds fly and his loose pullover shirt whips behind him.

In a concession to showmanship, the raised, miked wooden tap floor was lit by banks of sidelights and footlights that changed from red to yellow to blue, as the music modulated from up-tempo numbers to ballads.

Though Glover and the band were the indisputable stars of the show, the members of TiDii, mostly in their late teens and 20s, got cheers for smooth unison and couple dancing and some neat solo turns. Marshall Louis Davis Jr. led a group number, soloing with wide legs and a light tapping style that he seasoned with a side-to-side roll. The group of four women and three men moved together in a line behind Davis. They stepped and turned suavely in unison, showing individual style in their heads, arms, and attitudes.

TiDii, dressed in glowing shirts that made their rainbow name visible, danced to a Chaka Khan number, diffusing into brief couple dances that looked like tap love. Mellow as they were, they never lost the jazz spirit or the sense of performing in a groove with the musicians.

A favorite was 12-year-old Cartier Anthony Williams, known as “Coop,” who has been touring with Glover for the past two years. This kid is a thorough study. He knows the moves of all his tap ancestors, from Jimmy Slyde to Gregory Hines, and he did them all in his solo. Coop walked on the tips of his toes, walked backwards on his heels, did the buck and wing and the shim-sham—sliding steps and weight changes, all a cappella, while his colleagues applauded from the wings.

Jazz tap is a tradition that’s learned from one’s elders. Glover danced a tribute to the late Buster Brown, whose light-footed style is an extreme contrast to Glover’s heavy hitting. Moving to music by Neal Hefti, he danced in Brown’s easy, shagging heel-and-toe style, while the band comped, leaving plenty of open space for Glover’s beats.

Passing the tradition on, Glover shared the stage with 7-year-old Jamal, a child who was sitting in the front row and dying to get up and dance. Jamal, in red shirt and sandals, caught on to Glover’s moves instantly and kept up with him all the way. While the audience cheered, Glover shook the child’s hand and said, “See, we didn’t stop.”

After an ecstatic full-cast finale, the band departed the stage and the dancers cooled the audience down with their slinky encore to Sade’s “Cherish the Day.”

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