Monday, February 10, 2014

Small group jazz in the spotlight

Two very different approaches to small group jazz got strong workouts in Monday night's Charlotte County Jazz Society artist series concert at the Charlotte County Cultural Center in Port Charlotte FL.

Chris Brown, Jim Wellen
Tenor saxophonist Jim Wellen's quartet teamed with singer Chris Brown to present a well-crafted tribute to the songbook associated with the late Lee Wiley, giving tasty interpretations to a wide range of standards in the swing tradition as Wiley did in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. The band included pianist Dick Reynolds, bassist Dominic Mancini and drummer Johnny Moore. Wellen's melodic tenor complemented Brown's vocals throughout. Highlights: "Tangerine," "The Night We Called it a Day," "You Took Advantage of Me" and "East of the Sun West of the Moon." With her crisp, no-nonsense diction and direct approach to a song, Wellen said he considers Brown to be :the spiritual embodiment of Lee Wiley" without imitating her in any way.

Mike Markaverich
The second half of this double bill featured Sarasota-based pianist Mark Markaverich's trio with Don Mopsick on bass (subbing for Ernie WIlliford, who was under the weather) and Johnny Moore on drums. Markaverich, a New Hampshire native blind since birth, is a phenomenal pianist blessed with strong technique and clever musical ideas. He's also a decent singer, as shown on about half of the set's tunes. Highlights: The rather magical interplay with Mopsick, with whom he's never worked, and the pianist's reaction each time the band was in synch trading fours. They were locked in a splendid groove, and he appreciated it. Instrumental treats: their takes on Freddie Hubbard's "Up Jumped Spring," "Yours is My Heart Alone," "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream,"  while "Broadway" and "How High the Moon" were vocal treats.

The Artists Series continues March 10 with the Lisa Kelly-JB Scott quintet.

Set One: Wellen, Reynolds, Brown, Mancini, Moore
Set Two: Markaverich, Mopsick, Moore

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