|Najar, Lamb, Allen, Feinman, Suggs
The event marked the club's first opportunity to hear trumpeter James Suggs, an upstate New York native who moved to the St. Petersburg area this year after having spent the past eight years living and working in Argentina. He was a fine addition to Najar's band, which also included ex-Ellington bassist John Lamb and drummer Mark Feinman.
The holiday fare came from deep in Najar's repertoire in some cases, such as the Joao Gilberto bossa nova "Presente de Natal" ("Christmas Present") and Charlie Byrd's "A Carol for All Seasons," which was named for the guitarist's daughter, Carol. The Gilberto tune was ideal, as New York-based Allen has a special affinity for Brazilian jazz. There were also several pieces from the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn "Nutcracker Suite" jazz repertoire, and a lovely solo guitar version of "Greensleeves" aka "What Child is This?".
The evening's other gems included Suggs' trumpet feature on "What a Wonderful World," and the bands takes on "Things Ain't What they Used to Be" and Duke Ellington's "The Feeling of Jazz." The latter was most appropriate, because jazz and the holiday season are so much about feelings.
Combine the two, and the spirit on stage is anything but ho-hum. It's ho-ho-ho and them some.