Thursday, April 4, 2019

Putting a tasty stamp on jazz classics

Billy Marcus
Pianist Billy Marcus headlined the South County Jazz Club's 2018-19 season-closing concert on Wednesday, April 4 in Venice FL. Marcus is blessed with savvy musicality and pyrotechnic piano chops - and his trio mates helped make the evening even more special. 

Mark Neuenschwander
Bassist Mark Neuenschwander is a longtime jazz educator who teaches in the Tampa Bay area and is a first-tier player. Marcus simply calls this blue-ribbon bassist "the Rock of Gibraltar." Dave Morgan is a triple threat. Besides tasty work at the drum kit, he was also featured on vibes and vocals.

The Great American Songbook, songs from a range of movies and jazz chestnuts were the raw material for their inventive explorations. Vintage material included Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" and W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues." Marcus's romp through the latter burner was one of the evening's showcase moments at the Venice Art Center.

Another was his tour-de-force medley blending gems written by Michel Legrand, who died this year. They included "I Will Wait For You" and "The Theme From Summer of '42." Marcus also paid tribute to composer Andre Previn, who died in February, with "You're Gonna Hear From Me" from the soundtrack for the movie "Inside Daisy Clover."

Dave Morgan
In every instance, the trio found creative ways to put a personal stamp on the music. For example, they performed "A Beautiful Friendship" as a bossa nova. It featured Morgan on drums and vocals. An interesting footnote: this gem was written by Donald Kahn and Stanley Styne, the sons of songwriting giants Gus Kahn and Jule Styne.

Other material included Johnny Mandel's "Emily," Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Triste" and Bronislaw Kaper's "Invitation" (all featuring Morgan on vibes), "Let's Fall in Love," "I'm Old Fashioned," "My Foolish Heart," "On The Sunny Side of the Street" and "Corner Pocket." The latter was an ideal closer, for the band had this audience in its pocket all night long. 
Billy Marcus, Dick Hyman

Pianist Dick Hyman, who moved from New York to Venice many years ago, was in the house. Marcus was quick to quip: "If I had known Dick Hyman was going to be here tonight, I might have taken a couple of tranquilizers." If he felt any stress, he never showed it.

Marcus, Morgan, Neuenschwander

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