Ronnie Leigh celebrated the kinship between jazz, the blues and R&B
in his Monday, November 14 appearance in Punta Gorda, FL for the
Charlotte County Jazz Society.
suave, engaging entertainer from upstate New York made his CCJS debut
with a performance that dug into the Great American Songbook and
more-modern jazz and R&B sources, including material from Gregory
Porter, the late Al Jarreau and even Steely Dan.
and his tight seven-piece jazz band put extended interpretations on
all of the material. The band included saxophonist David MacKenzie,
trumpeter Charlie Bertini, trombonist Herb Bruce, pianist John
O'Leary, bassist Charlie Silva, drummer Paul Parker and guitarist
Steve Luciano. While the other players were no strangers to CCJS
audiences, this was also Orlando-based Luciano's first visit.
opened with Porter's “On My Way to Harlem,” a wistful but upbeat
acknowledgment of jazz and the Harlem Renaissance as one's musical
roots. Right away, it was clear that generous solo space for the horn
players would be a strength all night.
|MacKenzie, Bertini, Bruce|
three-man horn section added unison riffing behind Leigh's
sometimes-teasing, laid back, mellow vocals. He also dropped in wordless scatting segments on various
songs without overdoing the
techniques. A few times, he sounded like a fourth horn, emulating the
sounds of a trombone or trumpet while trading melodic phrases with
|Leigh, Parker, MacKenzie|
Latin-tinged take on “Stompin' at the Savoy” had Leigh scatting a
bit and dancing in place to its cha cha rhythm. It was followed by
another gem from Porter, who emerged a decade ago as a fine
singer-songwriter equally at home in the jazz and R&B genres.
This one was “When Love Was King,” an extended ballad that Leigh
sang with just the rhythm section.
a laid-back, teasing introduction, Leigh transformed the standard
“Bye, Bye Blackbird” into a playful yet soulful treat, riding
Silva's beautiful bass line. MacKenzie on flute and trumpeter Bertini
were featured soloists.
the course of the two sets, Leigh dug into four Jarreau tunes. “We're
in This Love Together” during the first set was just the teaser.
The second set included three more hits from the Jarreau songbook: “I
Need Somebody” (featuring a robust horn interlude), the uptempo
“Easy” and “Mornin',” with Leigh's soaring vocals riding the
groove. On all of these, scatting and horn emulation supplemented the
vocals, much like Jarreau did.
horns and a frisky tenor sax solo from MacKenzie enhanced Leigh's
take on “Bring It Back.” The
singer first heard the gritty tune performed by singer Catherine
Russell, who recorded it in 2014. It was written in the late 1940s or
early 1950s by R&B and jump blues singer-guitarist Harrison
Nelson, who performed under the name Peppermint Harris.
|John O'Leary |
also shared Steely Dan's “Deacon Blues” and jazz singer Ron
Boustead's humorous, quasi-romantic “(Let's Go Out For) Coffee.”
Leigh's melodic accents and pauses added a joyous effect to the
latter, setting up an extended keyboard solo from O'Leary.
night's three other tunes spoke volumes about
headliner's zest for the stage and rapport with an audience: “Let
the Good Times Roll,” a bluesy take on “Ain't Misbehavin'” and,
of course, “I Love Being Here With You.”
event at the Gulf Theater and the Military Heritage Museum became the
CCJS 2022-2023 season opener. An October concert was canceled due to
facility damage from Hurricane Ian.
|The Ronnie Leigh Octet|