Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Saxophonist's "A Team" delivers a night filled with musical gems

A touring jazz saxophonist's lot often means solitary travel to a distant city or country- and working with a local or regional rhythm section with whom they may or may not be familiar.
Harry Allen, Rebecca Kilgore

The fine swing tenor Harry Allen had none of that uncertainty for his March 14 appearance in the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert series. Allen brought his own New York-based band to Port Charlotte as part of a five-concert Florida tour. His ace rhythm section included the superb pianist Bill Cunliffe, bassist Joel Forbes and drummer Kevin Kanner. He also shared the spotlight with a special guest, Portland, Oregon-based singer Rebecca Kilgore.

Joel Forbes, Bill Cunliffe
It was a night for revealing new aspects in a wide range of jazz and vintage popular standards. Allen & Co. more than did them justice. Way more.

Over his 30-year-plus career, Allen has developed into a first-tier player whose playing style blends fire, inventiveness and subtlety. Initially influenced by the sounds of onetime mentor Scott Hamilton, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Ben Webster, Allen has absorbed much from those tenor masters and others - distilling it into a very personal sound.

While Allen can hold his own in any style or context, he excels at interpreting the jazz ballad. He treated the Port Charlotte audience to stunning versions of Charles Trenet's gorgeous "I Wish You Love" and Albert Hague's "Young and Foolish." His uptempo skill was showcased on "Back Home in Indiana."
Kevin Kanner
Kilgore joined the band for five of eight tunes during each set. It was easy to see why Allen calls her "my favorite singer in the world." With an engaging style, keen sense of rhythm and clean, crisp diction, she delivered mightily. Treats included her takes on "Tea For Two," Johnny Mercer's ballad "Dream," the Dinah Washington hit "What a Difference a Day Made," and "Why Don't You Do Right," a Kansas Joe McCoy blues that Peggy Lee popularized in a 1942 hit recording with Benny Goodman. In each case, Kilgore put her own imprint on the song.

Cunliffe, an imaginative bandleader and arranger in his own right, was showcased in a formidable second-set feature. With subtle backing from just Forbes and Kanner, the pianist skillfully explored "The Way You Look Tonight." In his hands, its harmonic and melodic twists and turns added even more glitter to a night featuring many musical gems.
Harry Allen, Rebecca Kilgore, Kevin Kanner, Bill Cunliffe, Joel Forbes

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