Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The International Trio’s return visit swings mightily

Drummer Eddie Metz Jr.’s trio with Italian pianist Rossano Sportiello and Australian bassist-singer Nicki Parrott sure knows how to swing its music. It did so on Monday, January 13 with creativity, poignancy, a bit of humor – and a program that honored the players’ great influencers.
Eddie Metz Jr.

This was the band’s fourth visit to the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert stage in nine seasons. It was clear from the first notes that their sound and simpatico have reached new heights – and the audience responded in kind. This is a band of equal partners. Their concert programming has evolved over the years to a point where they have combined their formidable musical talents in ways that appeal to their listeners.

Rossano Sportiello
Sportiello’s keyboard command and sprightly Stride-influenced style set the tone for the night as the band opened with Earl Hines’ “A Monday Date,” then dug into a stunning version of Erroll Garner’s “Misty” that showcased Parrott’s melodic bass artistry on her mid-tune solo. The segment ended with their teasing take on Stride master Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose.”

Nicki Parrott
The next segment underscored Parrott’s vocals. This being the centennial year of Peggy Lee’s birth, she opened with the Lee hit “It’s a Good Day,” then performed the Nat King Cole hit “L-O-V-E” and Ella Fitzgerald’s 1936 hit “Mr. Paganini.”  She also performed Lee’s classic “Fever” later in the concert.

The first set concluded with material associated with Count Basie. The bandleader hired 20-year-old Metz, who was still in school at William Paterson University, to go on the road for six months as the band’s drummer in the early 1980s. What a way to boost a career. The trio performed “Shiny Stockings” and “Shoe Shine Boy” with the drummer’s power and subtleties on full display.

Sportiello paid additional tribute to Garner, as well as George Shearing (“She”), Oscar Peterson and Chopin in the second set. After the pianist dug into Garner’s “”I Can’t Get Started,” Metz shook his head and said, “If you closed your eyes, you’d swear Erroll Garner was playing here tonight.” Sportiello’s treatment of Peterson’s classic ballad “You Look Good to Me” honored the composer but was imbued with his own touches. Later, he reimagined the classical “Waltz in C Sharp Minor” as a meeting of the minds between composer Chopin and Fats Waller. It was a stunning display of his piano mastery.

In a poignant change of pace, Parrott performed one more modern song in honor of the firefighters, animal rescue personnel and others helping combat Australia's horrific bush fires. She chose “Rainbow Connection,” which Kermit the Frog sang in 1979’s The Muppet Movie. Later, she honored guitarist and inventor Les Paul, with whom she played for 10 years at Iridium in New York. The two-song tribute included “Young at Heart” (with a few lyrical twists) and “How High the Moon,” which was a 1951 mega-hit for Paul and his wife, singer Mary Ford.
Eddie Metz Jr.

Florida-based Metz, whose roots are in Michigan, completed his Basie tribute with a clever solo performance of “Cute” from the Count’s repertoire. He played this version of the Neal Hefti tune out in front of his drum set, using brushes on a cardboard box held between his legs. He reached back a few times to hit the bass drum or a cymbal for added effect.

The trio closed things out with “St. Louis Blues,” with the audience standing en masse and clapping along on this exhilarating evening.

Early in the concert, Parrott thanked the audience for turning out in such strong numbers “on a Tuesday night.” She returned three days earlier from an Australian holiday visit. Parrott was jet-lagged, but you couldn’t tell in her playing. Reminded that it was Monday, she quipped, “It’s Tuesday in Australia.”

This Port Charlotte concert opened a week-long Florida tour by the trio. It drew more than 380 people to the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s William H. Wakeman III Theater.
The International Trio

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