Thursday, March 31, 2016

A spirited finale to jazz club's fifth season

Al Hixon
The South County Jazz Club wrapped up its fifth season on Thursday, March 31, with a splendid concert by the latest edition of drummer Al Hixon's "Underheard Herd."

That's a fitting name for his band, which generally includes a player or two who have been under-exposed in the area, or who are so good, you never tire of hearing them.

The matinee event at the Venice Art Center teamed Hixon with ex-Ellington bassist John Lamb, pianist Dick Reynolds (longtime house pianist at Mr. Kelly's in Chicago), tenor saxophonist Jim Wellen and St. Petersburg-based trumpeter James Suggs, who moved to Florida a couple of years ago after an eight-year residency in Argentina.
James Suggs

It was Suggs' first Venice Art Center appearance since last June, when he headlined a Louis Armstrong tribute evening. He is a young man with an old soul. He digs deep into the jazz repertoire to revisit material - and imbues it with great finesse and bright, clean melodic lines. The concert paired him with Wellen, a terrific swing-style tenor player whose sound is reminiscent of a couple of relative youngsters - Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen.
Jim Wellen, John Lamb

Suggs' shining moments included the band's takes on "The Very Thought of You," Lil Hardin Armstrong's 1922 classic "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," "St. James Infirmary" and an encore tease - the high-energy introduction to "West End Blues," another Satchmo-related gem.
Reynolds treated the crowd to a solo rendition of an original ballad, "Reflections," that was both pensive and lovely.

Dick Reynolds, Jim Wellen, James Suggs, John Lamb, AL Hixon

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