Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Swinging jazz in two different contexts

The Charlotte County Jazz Society opened its 2017-18 concert season on Monday, October 9 with a robust evening featuring two Sarasota-based bands that covered a lot of musical territory in different contexts.

Trombonist Dick Hamilton's sextet and pianist Mike Markaverich's trio performed an hour apiece - and 10 songs apiece as it turned out - at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's newly renamed William H. Wakeman III Theater. The early season event drew a crowd estimated at more than 225 attendees.

Dick Hamilton
Hamilton's main instrument is trombone but one could argue that his main instruments are pen and paper. His peerless skill as an arranger dominated the opening set, as the band dug deep into his complex charts.

Hamilton spent about 45 years as a studio musician and arranger in Los Angeles before returning to Florida four years ago. He now writes and arranges principally for his swinging sextet, which includes Jim Martin on trumpet and flugelhorn, Tony Swain on alto and tenor sax, pianist Matt Bokulic, bassist John DeWitt and drummer Johnny Moore.

His arrangements feature crisp unison horn lines as well as unexpected moments where the other horns add complementing or contrasting textures behind the soloist. The material included Hamilton's arrangements of jazz and Great American Songbook standards plus two originals. Those latter tunes were things he wrote to the chord changes of classic tunes. "Dive/Jump" was based on Irving Berlin's "How Deep is the Ocean (How High is the Sky)" and "Getting Sentimental All Over You" was based on Ned Washington's "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You."

On an ultra-slow version of "Blue Monk," all three horns riffed beautifully behind Bokulic's piano solo on this Thelonious Monk classic. Moore's mallet-work set the exotic tone for Hamilton's arrangement of "Delilah's Theme" from the 1949 movie "Samson and Delilah." Other material included Miles Davis's "Walkin," "Someday My Prince Will Come," "Prelude to a Kiss," "Love for Sale," "Just Squeeze Me" and the newst chart he'd written for the band, "Falling in Love With Love."

Bokulic, Hamilton, Martin, DeWitt, Swain, Moore

Markaverich, Mopsick, Moore
New Hampshire native Markaverich, blind since birth, moved to Florida 29 years ago after playing jazz piano on Cape Cod for a decade. He quickly became a mainstay on the Sarasota jazz scene.

In the evening's closing set, his music covered a wide stylistic range -  jazz classics, few standards from the Great American Songbook, and a few things you don't often hear in a mainstream jazz context. 

Right from the opening tune, "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm," it was clear that the set would be all about musical conversation between Markaverich, bassist Don Mopsick and drummer Johnny Moore. Throughout the evening, Markaverich reacted with glee to the other players' solos.
Mike Markaverich

The trio performed two Oscar Pettiford tunes, "Tricotism" and "Laverne Walk," as well as trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's chestnut "Up Jumped Spring" and Horace SIlver's "Nica's Dream." 

Makaverich featured pleasant lyric and scat vocals on the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross classic "Centerpiece," "What is This Thing Called Love?" and "The Bare Necessities" from the Disney film "The Jungle Book." He played Rodger's and Hart's "Lover" in 5/4 time rather than the standard 4/4 rhythm, and added some ragtime twists along the way. 

Johnny Moore
The trio closed the evening with an instrumental take on Michael Franks' "Popsicle Toes." This mid-1970s jazz-pop hit isn't heard often without its clever, saucy lyrics, This version relished its beautiful jazz underpinning, from which the pianist revealed glimmering new facets.

The evening's big bonus: a double helping of Johnny Moore's drumming. You'll never hear flash or bombast from this man. His playing is all about finesse, subtlety and unexpected accents. Every note has a purpose.

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