“Rejoice and Swing” looked like an intriguing catch phrase for a so-called jazz event at the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday night — linking three diverse acts by virtue of some of their common gospel and spiritual taproots. At first the idea worked splendidly, but the evening of high quality music lost its way as the pace dragged midway through Yolanda Adams’ concluding set.
Once one of Wynton Marsalis’ more interesting proteges, pianist Eric Reed needed only two selections to carve out a wide swath of pan-spiritual territory. After leading off with a to-the-point, melodic, gospel-flavored statement, “We Have Come Into This House,” he tapped into the very different spiritual vibe of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” a 22-minute interpretation of most of the suite that rolled and broiled with complex ideas and interactions. Reed’s trio was dynamic enough to almost — almost — make us forget that there is a saxophone part in the piece, too.
Throwing aside fears that gravitating toward the pop mainstream has watered down its music on CDs in recent years, the real Take 6 showed up — its harmonically sophisticated, gently swinging, gospel-grounded a cappella blend soaring as buoyantly as it ever has. In accordance with the evening’s theme, the set leaned heavily toward Take 6’s inspirational repertoire, with some preaching as links. Along the way, it offered a terrific cover of Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” from the group’s most recent Warner Bros. album, “Beautiful World” — doo-wop, soul, gospel and folk all rolled into one ball; brought things up to date with a hip-hop groove on “I’ve Got Life”; and closed with one of the spirituals that originally made it famous, “Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep.”
Clad in a striking white pants suit, owner of a high, penetrating voice that sounds closer to pop than gospel, fronting a band loaded with digital synthesizers, Adams positions herself as a glamorous bridge between the sacred and the secular. Alas, her set was not well-paced, for she got bogged down with inferior material at dragging tempos, with brief peaks of hard-sell fervor. And she was apparently unaware of the Bowl’s curfew, as her set was cut off abruptly before it could reach a logical conclusion.