Thursday, December 19, 2019

An all-star evening in every respect

Guitarist Peter Bernstein teamed with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra on Wednesday, December 18 for a program that illuminated his all-star strengths as a player, improviser and composer.

Peter Bernstein
The concert, part of the sextet's All That Jazz series at Artis-Naples' Daniels Pavilion, took a different tack than usual. In this case, it focused on some of Bernstein's many fine originals. Two chestnuts from the bebop canon were added for good measure.

The sextet includes tenor saxophonist, arranger and musical director Lew Del Gatto (who spent 25 years in NBC's Saturday Night Live Band), trumpeter Dan Miller, violinist Glenn Basham, pianist Jerry Stawski, bassist Kevin Mauldin and drummer Mike Harvey. 

This was a return visit for native New Yorker Bernstein, who is 52. He was the sextet's special guest in 2014. Since starting his career in the late1980s, he has recorded more than a dozen albums as a leader, a few more as a co-leader, and played as a sidemen with a wide array of jazz heavyweights - from  elder masters to rising stars.

Jerry Stawski, Peter Bernstein
The night's five originals were wide-ranging in their feel and tempo, giving Bernstein and the band ample opportunity to showcase their soloing in a variety of moods. The opener, "Jet Stream," was a burner. "Simple As That" had a teasing melodic feel.
Lew Del Gatto
The extended piece "Dragonfly" featured the guitarist with just the rhythm section. Stawski's solo included some interesting twists. He occasionally added a few notes from which you could visualize an insect skittering over the water. "Jive Coffee," written over the chord changes to "Tea For Two," was a beautiful combined feature for Bernstein and Basham. The latter player is concertmaster and principal violinist for the Naples Philharmonic, which performs in neighboring Hayes Hall.
Kevin Mauldin, Dan Miller

The two non-Bernstein pieces were straight from two of the architects of bebop. Their version of Dizzy Gillespie's classic Latin ballad "Con Alma" got a faster tempo, and was heated even more by high-energy solo from Miller. Thelonious Monk's Bud Powell tribute, "In Walked Bud," opened with a Bernstein extended guitar solo before the full ensemble joined. It featured Del Gatto's always solid tenor mastery.

Bernstein's "Blood Wolf Moon Blues" was a splendid finish. Basham showed a rarely seen side of his musicality. His blues harmonica playing was nasty. Nasty in a very good way.

Peter Bernstein with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra

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