Tuesday, October 12, 2021

La Lucha and friends shine in CCJS debut

Nineteen months after the pandemic brought the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s 2018-19 concert season to an abrupt and premature end, the nonprofit’s evening concerts resumed on Monday, October 11 with a musical treat from La Lucha.

John O'Leary
The Tampa Bay-area trio, consisting of pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman, brought along two guests: the Barcelona-born singer Ona Kirei and tenor saxophonist Trace Zacur. The latter was a last-minute sub for trumpeter James Suggs who was unable to make the gig.

Alejandro Arenas, Mark Feinman

La Lucha covered the musical gamut, putting it’s own creative spin on time-tested jazz standards, five original compositions and creative covers of more contemporary material from David Bowie, The Beatles and the English pop-rock band Tears for Fears. Half of the program came from La Lucha’s newest CD, Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Arbors Jazz, 2020). 

Trace Zacur

Zacur’s distinctive, edgy sound on tenor sax complemented La Lucha and helped nudge the music in new directions. The band, which excels on in-the-moment creativity, responded in kind. That was first noticeable on their tribute tune “Blues for Houston Person.” Their other tribute tune this evening, Arenas’ “Samba Pra Diego,” was written for Diego Figuereido. It was a fitting inclusion, as the Brazilian guitarist was the last performer in this concert series in early March of 2018. 

La Lucha has a true international flavor with Arenas hailing from Colombia, O’Leary from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and Feinman from the Tampa area. The three first met in a jazz program practice room at the University of South Florida 15 years ago and put their trio together a few months later. Kirei, now based in Tampa, added more international flavor to the evening with her vocal creativity. 

John O'Leary, Ona Kirei

Artistry and emotion were on full display all night long. 

The jazz standards included Antonio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova classic “Desafinado,” Charles Trenet and Albert Beach’s “I Wish You Love,” “Gone With the Wind” from the musical “Oklahoma,” and “Autumn Nocturne.”

 Favorite moments: 

  • The group’s contemporary spin on the Stevie Wonder Motown hit “For Once in My Life.” 
  • Their covers of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Major Tom would have been pleased with the instrumental exploration of the latter’s haunting, other-worldly melody. 

  • Ona Kirei

    Kirei’s arrangement of the Hoagy Carmichael standard “Skylark” as a samba. It opened with her humming behind O’Leary’s piano introduction. A drum feature for Feinman followed the singer’s celebration of the ballad’s wistful lyrics. 
  • The band transformed The Beatles’ 91-second tease “Golden Slumbers” from the Fab Four’s Abbey Road album into a six-minute instrumental and vocal adventure that was arranged by Arenas. 
  • They closed the evening with a burner, combining “Lullaby of the Leaves” and "Lullaby of Birdland” into a fine medley of material with nothing in common except that one word in their titles. In La Lucha’s hands, the two songs meshed seamlessly. 

The first concert of the 2020-21 season drew a crowd of about 140 to the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s William H Wakeman III Theater. That was a fine draw, given that it was early in the concert season, and the likelihood that some members are still reticent about indoor events, even if many others are masked.

John O'Leary, Ona Kirei, Trace Zacur, Alejandro Arenas, Mark Feinman

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