Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Charles McPherson's both sides now

It took two and a half-years, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic lull, but alto saxophonist Charles McPherson finally got back to Artis-Naples. He appeared with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra on Wednesday, November 9 in the quintet's All That Jazz series. His last visit to Naples was about 10 years ago.

Charles McPherson
On this night, he treated the audience to two sides of his musical psyche: a fine composer with wide-ranging material, and a true-blue bebopper who can add high-energy artistry and rapidly shifting ideas to most any tune.

The top-notch band supporting him this night at Daniels Pavilion included tenor saxophonist and musical director Lew Del Gatto, trumpeter Vince DiMartino, pianist Jerry Stawski, bassist Chuck Bergeron and drummer Mike Harvey. 

Jerry Stawski, McPherson
McPherson, now 83, opened the program with four diverse originals: his burner "Bud Like," two very different pieces from his Jazz Dance Suites, and the playful "Jumpin' Jacks," which was inspired by the game jacks that kids used to play on floor, driveways or sidewalks many moons ago.

The dance pieces were quite interesting. McPherson is the resident composer of the San Diego Ballet, where his daughter Camille is a principal dancer. "Song of the Sphinx" was gorgeous and intricate with both Spanish and Middle Eastern tinges. He followed it with the frisky, upbeat tune "Wedding Song." McPherson said it was inspired by an Old Testament tale of a hopeful young woman jilted by King Solomon.

McPherson, Lew Del Gatto
After those four originals, he played an inspired, occasionally delicate take on the standard "Old Folks" with just the rhythm section. The evening's lone ballad was a splendid showcase for Stawski's fine keyboard skills.

Then, with Hurricane Nicole bearing down on Florida, McPherson and the band shifted into gale-force bebop.

Vince DiMartino
They roared through Dizzy Gillespie's classic "A Night in Tunisia" and Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are," and closed with a blistering take on Charlie Parker and Gillespie's "Anthropology" with all of the band members turning in fine solos.

Early in his career, McPherson spent 14 years in bassist Charles Mingus' band. He noted that Mingus tweaked the beloved Kern standard a bit, and called his version "All The Things You Could Be By Now if Sigmund Freud's Wife was Your Mother." DiMartino rolled out the melody on this one, showcasing his bright and beautiful trumpet artistry.

It was good to hear McPherson in Southwest Florida again, playing in Naples after a four-night run at Smoke in New York City. 

He had been scheduled to play at the opening night main stage concert of the Sarasota Jazz Festival in March 2020. It was cancelled because of COVID-19 just an hour or so before showtime. His scheduled Naples return a month later was cancelled, and he was unable to make planned concerts in November 2020 and January 2022.

New Orleans trumpeter Wendell Brunious is the next featured guest in the All That Jazz series on December 14.

Charles McPherson with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra

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