Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jazz reflecting both sides now

Pianist Kenny Drew Jr.'s trio and saxophonist Tom Ellison's band Hip Pocket opened the Charlotte County Jazz Society's 2013-14 season Thursday night with very different approaches in this first of two double bills this season.

Kenny Drew Jr.
Drew used his hour to dig mightily into eight of his original compositions. Four of them were tribute tunes to departed musicians: "Goodbye Mr. Jones" for Hank Jones, "White Gardenia" for Billie Holiday, "Mr. Peterson's Birthday" for Oscar Peterson and "Dedication" for his father, who was a formidable bebop pianist who spent many of his professional years living and performing in Europe. Drew's trio included bassist Joe Porter and drummer John Jenkins.

Drew is a modernist whose classical chops are a strong element in his keyboard style. His take on the Peterson tribute, written last year on the piano giant's birthday, paid homage to Peterson's style but was more Kenny than Oscar.

Tom Ellison
Ellison's band, with Matt Bokulic on piano, Don Mopsick on bass and Chuck Parr on drums, spent the final set of the evening without original fare. Instead, they explored standards: jazz standards, pop standards and a couple of tunes that ought to be jazz standards.

Ellison drew on his full wind arsenal - alto, baritone, tenor and soprano saxes and two flutes - and sang as well on a couple of tunes. The highlights: the band's poignant take on John Lennon's anthemic "Imagine" and Ellison's baritone romp through Gerry Mulligan's classic "Bernie's Tune," as well as heart-felt renditions of Chuck Mangione's "Land of Make Believe" and Gerry Niewood's ballad "Joy."

Ellison, a Rochester NY native, has a natural affinity for Mangione music and also studied for two summers with Niewood, who was the Rochester-based flugelhorn player's saxophonist for many years.

Next up in the CCJS Artists Series: pianist Jim Roberts' Saxtet on November 11.

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