Saturday, April 20, 2013

Straight-ahead jazz draws from an eclectic mix

Pianist Lenny Wilson's quintet went far beyond mining the usual jazz repertoire Friday when it concluded the South County Jazz Club's Venice (FL) Art Center concert series. You would expect a blend of tunes from the Great American Songbook, as well as jazz classics, but Wilson also threw in a bit of Chuck Mangione, a wild jazz romp through guitarist Mason Williams' 1968 hit "Classical Gas" (rarely heard today in any jazz setting), The Beatles hit "Can't Buy Me Love" and a solo-piano exploration of a "Les Miserables" medley (including "I Dreamed a Dream") with Dave Norman's fine drum work joining at the end.

Lenny Wilson
It was an afternoon where trumpeter John DePaola spent a lot of time in the  spotlight, particularly on the opener, Mangione's "Feels So Good," Miles Davis's "So What" and the exquisite flugelhorn soloing he brought to "Nancy With the Laughing Face."

Ron Rester, Janice Bruce-Swartz
The solid quintet also included Ron Rester on bass and Janice Bruce-Swartz on vocals. She  teamed with Wilson on an interesting take on Murray Grand's clever ballad "Guess Who I Saw Today." She was also very strong on the band's takes on "Almost Being in Love," "Fly Me to the Moon" and "But Not For Me."

Wilson used voicings on his keyboard to emulate The Four Freshmen and The Manhattan Transfer sound on several individual tunes and medleys.

This was Wilson's first area concert in at least four years. He is based in The Villages, three hours to the northwest, where his popular band keeps a very busy performance schedule.

The South County Jazz Club's busy 2012-2013 concert season concludes on Sunday, April 28 at Selby Gardens in Sarasota with a 1 p.m. concert by singer June Garber, backed by Tom Ellison's band Hip Pocket.
Lenny Wilson Quintet

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