Pianist Jim Roberts is the Charlotte County Jazz Society's most frequent visitor as a bandleader. The CCJS concert in Port Charlotte FL on Monday, November 8 marked Roberts' 18th appearance dating to June 1991, when he was the organization's first concert performer.
Roberts moved from New York City to Orlando shortly after his first CCJS gig. Through the years, he has brought trios, quartets, quintets and more. Since 2004, the sextet has been his steady band. He calls it his Saxtet because of its brass-rich front line, which features talented veterans Dan Jordan, Rex Wertz and David MacKenzie. Drummer Eddie Metz Jr. and bassist Doug Mathews were the band's rhythm aces.
This time out, Roberts had another twist. The band expanded to a four-horn septet, with his wife, tenor saxophonist A.J. Roberts, joining the other reed players on three tunes.
Pianist, composer arranger and educator Roberts never lets his music sound stale or dated on the concert stage. Freshness and vitality abound, even on the staples you've heard at prior appearances.
|Jordan, Wertz, MacKenzie|
While he is blessed with a crystalline, swinging sound at the piano, his strongest asset is the arrangements he writes for the textures of his band.
|Eddie Metz Jr.|
The wide-ranging repertoire this night also included Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa," Jerome Kern's 1933 Great American Songbook classic "Yesterdays," Lalo Schifrin's "Towering Toccata," Miles Davis' "Freddie the Freeloader" and Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man."
The texture changed a lot when MacKenzie played his huge and robust bass sax on one tune in each set: Jimmy Heath's "On the Trail," based on Ferde Grofe's "Grand Canyon Suite," and later "(Back Home Again in) Indiana." The latter is one of the oldest jazz recordings, dating to 1917.
The piece de resistance for these ears, was another of Roberts' concert staples. His arrangement of the adagio from Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concerto de Aranjuez," is always stunning. The composition, originally written for guitar, is best known in jazz circles for the Miles Davis-Gil Evans beauty that opens the flamenco-tinged Sketches of Spain. This arrangement features Roberts with a solo piano exploration of the exotic melody before shifting into a flute choir with an extended solo by Danny Jordan.
The concert drew a crowd of more than 175 to the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's William H Wakeman III Theater.
|Jim Roberts, Jordan, Mathews, Wertz, MacKenzie, Metz, A.J. Roberts|