Thursday, January 10, 2019

There's jazz in his blood

Pianist Rony Khoury hails from the Dominican Republic, where his sheer talent at the keyboard has caught many an eye - and ear. With good reason.

Rony Khoury
He visited Port Charlotte this week for a showcase performance - a brief stopover en route to Boston, where he's going to study at the Berklee College of Music. He won a half-scholarship to Berklee through the Michel Camilo Scholarship Competition, which is open to student musicians from the Dominican Republic. 

Isaac Mingus
Khoury, 28, performed in a trio format at J.D.'s Bistro with bassist Isaac Mingus and drummer Mark De Rose. Mingus, a recent grad of the State College of Florida in Bradenton who now studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville, is a classical and jazz bassist and cellist. De Rosa, a Berklee grad who spent a lot of time working in Japan, is now based on the Florida east coast.

Khoury's varied two-set program revealed a combination of classical chops, jazz in his blood (and musical soul), and a hint of Latin fire. The latter may draw a bit from the influence of Camilo, perhaps the DR's greatest jazz export. Camilo, who has been working in the US since 1979, has a playing style that embodies Latin fire - rhythmic, highly percussive, and full of energy.

In addition to putting his own stamp on a few standards, Khoury dug into two classic Herbie Hancock tunes - "Cantaloupe Island" and "Watermelon Man," Camilo's "From Within" and several original compositions, including "Un Blusito" (A Little Blues). 
Mark De Rosa

The most fascinating moments when he and his trio mates dug deep into "Stella By Starlight." They turned this classic jazz standard on its ear, with Khoury stretching its boundaries. His improvisation mined it at length to find and explore new facets.

It will be interesting to see what he absorbs from the Berklee experience, which has many international students (hailing from 70 countries), in its broad array of musical programs. 

At the very least, it will be a considerable networking opportunity with other future bandleaders, faculty (many of who maintain busy performance careers), and top-flight musicians who visit Berklee quite often for residencies and master classes. Plus, he'll only be a few hours away from New York's jazz mecca, where he can make further connections.

The Tuesday, January 8 event was a fundraiser for the Port Charlotte-based Hope Academy of Music, which provides one-on-one after school music lessons for students who otherwise couldn't afford such tutoring.

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