Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Jazz mastery on parade

Classic jazz from New Orleans is essential to performances by singer Lisa Kelly and trumpeter JB Scott but the couple showed once again what a wide net they cast when digging into material from the jazz canon, Great American Songbook and vintage popular standards.
Lisa Kelly, JB Scott

In the Charlotte County Jazz Society's 2081-19 season opener on Monday, October 8, their sextet mixed in a lot of fresh material with six of their concert staples, five of them rooted in New Orleans. This was the band's third visit to Port Charlotte in five years.

Dave Steinmeyer
Kelly and Scott's band for this concert included pianist Jeff Phillips, bassist Jay Mueller, drummer Clyde Connor and trombonist Dave Steinmeyer. This was  the first time they'd been able to bring fellow Jacksonville resident Steinmeyer to Port Charlotte. His credentials are mighty. He spent 28 years with the U.S. Air Force big band, The Airmen of Note, and led that outfit for more than a decade.

Scott is coordinator of jazz studies at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. He has strong New Orleans jazz credentials, having led the Dukes of Dixieland for three years. During that time in the Crescent City, he was mentored by trumpeter Al Hirt.
Lisa Kelly

This outfit swings the heck out of its music, always finding new things to explore in material performed in prior engagements - and make the evening fun at the same time.
JB Scott

The night's New Orleans material included "Basin Street Blues," "Sweethearts on Parade," "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" and the concert closer, "When the Saints Go Marching In."

Some fine surprises were interspersed with the New Orleans fare. Those concert gems included:
  • Kelly's feature on "How High the Moon." This sultry version was performed at a slowed half-time rhythm and featured Steinmeyer on trombone.
  • On "The Days of Wine and Roses," Kelly supplemented the lyrics with some trombone-like scatting to create a call-and-response moment with Steinmeyer. Scott did something similar when he used some drum-style scatting to mix it up with Connor on "Sweethearts on Parade."
  • Jay Mueller, Clyde Connor
  • The sextet's take on Dizzy Gillespie's classic "A Night in Tunisia" dug deep into the tune's Afro-Caribbean underpinnings. Phillips provided that Latin fire with some solid montuno at the piano, complementing Connor's supercharged rhythm.
Kelly's other fine vocal features included "The Very Thought of You," "Exactly Like You," "The Way You Look Tonight" and "That Old Black Magic." She has an uncanny way of turning a familiar tune into something fresh and personal. 
Jeff Phillips

Scott shifted between trumpet and flugelhorn as the material required, and added vocals on several New Orleans staples plus "Lady Be Good." He also featured the band on a fine original - the gospel-tinged "Inspiration."

Steinmeyer was a great fit in this group. His trombone artistry was filled with fluidity and clever counterpoint to Kelly's vocals and Scott's horn solos.

The concert drew an early season crowd of about 200 to the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's William H. Wakeman III Theater. 
Phillips, Scott, Steinmeyer, Mueller, Connor

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A jazz project with important messages

Miami-based trumpeter and educator John Daversa's newest recording project is important on many levels that stretch far beyond jazz - or music.

American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom (BFM Jazz) was recorded by the John Daversa Big Band supplemented by 53 so-called "Dreamers" - undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children and have grown up with American culture and values.

Daversa and his production team worked with nonprofit immigrant organizations to find Dreamers who could share their stories through music. The young singers, rappers and instrumentalists who signed on for the project live in 17 states - and had roots in 17 different countries around the globe. Those homelands are Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Senegal, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden and Venezuela.

Daversa, who chairs the Studio Music and Jazz Department at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, drafted professional musicians from Miami, Los Angeles and New York for his big band.

The Dreamers performed sols, instrumental accompaniments, spoken word poetry, percussion grooves, lead vocals, choruses and some raps. Each of the nine tunes on the CD is preceded by a Dreamer's narration of his or her individual story.

The featured music includes "Living in America," "Don't Fence Me In," Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," Woody Guthrie's "Deportee" (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos), two patriotic classics - John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" and Katharine Lee Bates and Samuel Wards "America the Beautiful," "America" from West Side Story, and two Daversa originals - the hopeful and optimistic "All is One" and "Red White and Remixed."

The project's treatment of "America" from West Side Story - is unusual and stunning. It's an all-percussion version, on which big band member Murph Aucamp brought together more than a dozen Dreamers who add multiple layers of exotic rhythm.

Many of the stories will make you pause and think about the challenges these talented young people have endured and continue face.Six years ago, the so-called Dreamers received temporary statues through the Deferred Action for Childhood Early Arrivals policy. It was rescinded last year, creating a limbo of sorts for 800,000 DACA recipients, 90 percent of whom are in school or have jobs.

Juan Carlos Alarcon Moscoso, who performs here on pipe organ, piano and percussion, talked about his challenges as a student musician and a Dreamer. "I don't think unity comes from everybody being the same, but respecting people's differences. I think that's the real unity of America."

Another Dreamer musician, trombonist Denzel Mendoza from Oregon, who came to the U.S. at age 5 with his family from Singapore, says the project "opened my eyes on how far I could take my musical career."

This project is a balm of sorts amid the challenges and rage going on across the US about immigration in general - both legal and illegal. That tragic situation is not what America is deep down inside.

The project endorsements include warm and positive words from both US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA,  and Sen. Lindsey Graham. It's a shame that Congress and the White House have been unable to solve the Dreamers' legal quandry - and take a more welcoming stance for other people who come here seeking to better their lives and contribute to its multi-cultured fabric.