Friday, November 25, 2016

Whitney James excels with her tight jazz trio

Catching very fine live jazz is a great way to avoid Black Friday madness. 

Whitney James
St. Petersburg-based singer Whitney James delivered the goods on Friday, November 25 in her first visit to the Jazz Club of Sarasota's Jazz at Two matinee series at Unitarian Universalist Church in Sarasota.

John O'Leary
James brought her regular instrumental trio, La Lucha, and from start to finish showed the benefits of working with a tight band into which her vocals fit seamlessly. Call it jazz simpatico and then some. 

The band includes John O'Leary on piano, Alejandro Arenas on bass and Mark Feinman on drums. Each had significant solo space to stretch the music in unexpected directions.


Mark Feinman
Her two sets explored romance and relationships in their various guises, mining lesser-turned pages of the Great American Songbook rather than tired standards. She also shared a couple of jazz standards (Benny Golson's "Whisper Not" (the title track from her 210 debut CD) and Betty Carter's "Tight," as well as Sting's "Fragile."

"We like to unearth the hidden treasures," she told the audience. After a poignant rendition of "Polkadots and Moonbeams," she noted that "They don't write lyrics like this anymore." How true.

As she celebrates those lyrics, James stretches syllables and floats across the band's rhythmic cushion with ease. The trio band never dropped a beat. James shared two interesting medleys: joining "Warm December and "I've Got My Love to
Keep Me Warm," and later closing the performance with La Lucha's arrangement pairing "Lullaby of the Leaves" and "Lullaby of Birdland."
John O'Leary, Whitney James, Alejandro Arenas, Mark Feinman

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