Thursday, March 11, 2021

The worldly art of jazz

Pianist (and abstract painter) Bill Buchman brought his Art of Jazz Quintet to Venice FL on Wednesday, March 10 for a concert that touched on many of the global influences that have become central to jazz. From its inception, the genre has absorbed – and welcomed – elements of other styles, and turned that musical melting pot into a rich gumbo.

Bill Buchman
His band for this socially distanced, outdoor concert at Plantation Golf & Country Club included Rick Aaron on flute, Rob Fors on bass, Chuck Parr on drums and Gerardo Velez on congas. The event was sponsored by Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota as part of its 25th anniversary season.

Since a swing beat is the very heart of jazz, it was only fitting that Buchman opened the program with the Freddie Green-penned Count Basie Orchestra staple “Corner Pocket.” While there were hot moments here and there, the late afternoon program was breezy for the most part, matching the weather.

Rick Aaron
The Jewish vaudeville staple “Bei Mir Bist Du Shön,” which became a mega-hit for the Andrews Sisters, was a wonderful flute feature for Aaron with playful percussion interplay from Velez. Aaron, a longtime classical and jazz player from Milwaukee, spends the colder months in Southwest Florida. Velez, a founding member of Spyro Gyra and whose first professional gig was backing Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969, moved to Sarasota two years ago from Hawaii.

The program ran nearly 90 minutes. It also included Slide Hampton’s “Frame for the Blues,” the Middle Eastern-tinged “Miserlou,” bassist Ron Carter’s “Little Waltz” (honoring the impact Vienna’s 3/4 dance beat has had on jazz) and Juan Tizol’s Ellington band staple “Caravan.” Buchman’s playing throughout revealed his musical artistry as an inventive pianist with solid, swinging chops.

Gerardo Velez

“Frame for the Blues” was a splendid choice, since the blues form has influenced so much of the world’s music, including jazz and rock. Velez, whose percussive accents and enthusiasm can steal a show, dug into this one with back-to-back solos that featured vocal scatting and harmonica.

The band’s take on “Miserlou” shifted from its traditional exotic rhythm to double-time bebop then back to the original tempo. “Caravan” was an explosive percussion feature for Parr and Velez, with both tandem playing and solo space. They made the most of it.

The afternoon concluded with an encore. “All The Things You Are,” in title and possibilities, summed up the many things that fall under the jazz umbrella.

The Art of Jazz Quintet
Chuck  Parr, Gerardo Velez, Rick Aaron, Bill Buchman, Rob Fors

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