Friday, February 3, 2023

The tasty groove of Jazz Simpatico

After pandemic pauses and a Hurricane Ian-related cancellation last fall, the Charlotte County Jazz Society delivered the fifth edition of its informal matinee concerts on Thursday, February 2 - and it was a gem.

Bob Zottola
Trumpeter Bob Zottola performed with his Naples-based Jazz Simpatico band at the Grill at 1951 in Port Charlotte, Florida. It was billed as a trio performance with steady collaborators Stu Shelton on keyboard and Tim Ruger on drums. But it was much more, given the scope of their musicality and an unexpected guest: tenor saxophonist Len Pierro, a Philadelphia bandleader who spends winters here.

Len Pierro, Bob Zottola
Zottola moved to Florida in 2004 after decades on the New York jazz and Broadway musicals scene, including a 16-year run in the pit orchestra for Les Miserables. The leader's trumpet and flugelhorn chops belie his 86 years on the planet. His range and control of dynamics on this most demanding of instruments are marvelous. He often muted his trumpet with a purple Seagram's Crown Royal bag to dampen the horn's bright sound.
Stu Shelton

Shelton brought an interesting twist, passing up the venue's Yamaha grand piano for his own electric keyboard. He has an unusual technique, playing swinging, beautiful melodies with his right hand while delivering solid bass lines with his left. Close your eyes, and you'd swear there was a string bass player in a dark corner of the stage. 

Tim Ruger
Ruger spent years on the road with the Tony Award-winning musical The Fantastics. He delivered solid, no-frills propulsion all afternoon, adding tasty accents without any excess or bombast. This is a very good thing.

Their material shifted between The Great American Songbook and a bit of Broadway to jazz chestnuts, the latter including Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova classic "Triste." Pierro added his beautiful tenor work to half of them. Zottola also sang on four numbers: "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "Bye Bye Blackbird,"  "I'm Old Fashioned" and a poignant version of Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time" from the 1944 musical On The Town.

Pierro, Zottola
Several instrumental choices underscored the band's creativity. 

  • Their uptempo version of John Coltrane's minor blues "Mr. P.C.," written in tribute to bassist Paul Chambers, featured Pierro on tenor sax, with Shelton delivering a relentless bass line and a classic B-3 organ sound.
  • Alternating notes on their respective horns, Zottola and Pierro teased their way into the melody before turning up the heat on "Stella by Starlight."
  • A clever rearrangement of Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" took the beautiful ballad in new directions.
  • An extended exploration of the classic tenor saxophone feature "Body and Soul," which Coleman Hawkins transformed into a jazz standard, showcased Pierro's beautifully laid-back tenor sound. He can swing hard when warranted, but never overplays.

They closed the afternoon with an extended take on "The Theme," one of Miles Davis's classic jazz heads based on the first eight bars of "I Got Rhythm." They rode with great joy over the chord changes, known in the jazz vernacular as "rhythm changes." It was the perfect summation of everything that preceded it.

Pierro, Zottola, Ruger Shelton 
Prior concerts in this occasional series featured pianist Bobby van Deusen in 2018, pianist Billy Marcus and bassist Don Mopsick in 2019, pianist Roy Gerson's trio in January 2020, and guitarist Nate Najar and singer Daniela Soledade in 2021.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

A few more images from The Jazz Cruise

Matt Wilson

 Here are a few more of my favorite images from the 2023 edition of The Jazz Cruise aboard the Celebrity Millennium. It sailed January 6-13 out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida to and from the Caribbean, after a two-year pandemic-related pause.

Jason Brown, Monty Alexander  
Dee Dee Bridgewater, Christian McBride, Benny Green
Christian Tamburr, Clint Holmes
Bria Skonberg, Nicki Parrott, Niki Haris


Sullivan Fortner



John Hart

Marvin Sewell


Axel Tosca
Samara Joy


Etienne Charles' kit

Trey Henry

Don Vappie, Carlos Henriquez, Wynton Marsalis

Niki Haris, James Morrison, Rodney Whitaker


Ken Peplowski, Wycliffe Gordon, Luke Sellick

Joey DeFrancesco posthumous Hall of Fame induction concert
Randy Brecker, Ken Peplowski, Christian McBride,
Emmet Cohen, John Pizzarelli, Lewis Nash
 


Thursday, January 26, 2023

Sharing the joy - and exuberant swing - of jazz guitar

Mark Whitfield
Mark Whitfield puts his heart and soul into his guitar playing. And as an observer, listener, you can't miss it. He bends and reshapes notes, adds a soulful blues feeling, and rearranges familiar tunes to make them his own - at least for the moment. 

And then there is the ever-present body English. He spins, he raises and lowers his beautiful red D'Angelico hollow-bodied guitar to accentuate the sounds he draws from it. His facial expressions run the gamut from intense grimaces to joyous, beaming smiles, shifting in an instant with the musical mood.

That - and more - was on full display on Wednesday, January 25, when he made his first appearance as special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra as part of the quintet's All That Jazz concert series at Artis-Naples' Daniels Pavilion.

The band backing him this fine evening included tenor saxophonist and artistic director Lew Del Gatto, trumpeter Randy Sandke, pianist Jerry Stawski, bassist Kevin Mauldin and drummer Mike Harvey. They were locked in with Whitfield from the start of an evening in which he picked tunes with deep connections to some of his jazz heroes.  

Randy Sandke
They opened with Vincent Youmans' popular music anthem "Without a Song." Then, in honor of Nat "King" Cole, Whitfield & Co. delivered an unusual but beautiful take on "Nature Boy," playing it in 3/4 waltz time rather than the traditional 4/4 rhythm.   

Some 34 years ago, Whitfield worked with singer Carmen McRae. It was an important association for this emerging young musician. Now 56, he shared the McRae-associated ballad "The Very Thought of You." Sandke added complementary touches to underscore the mood. 

Whitfield, Del Gatto, Sandke
Whitfield sent the other players to the wings for the mid-point highlight, a solo version of Lionel Hampton's classic composition "Midnight Sun." It was both poignant and powerful. Then with the band back on stage, Whitfield dug into another waltz-time rearrangement, this one of "Willow Weep For Me," as a tribute to one of his primary guitar heroes. The song was the title track of a Wes Montgomery recording released in 1969, less than a year after his death. It won a Grammy for best instrumental jazz album in 1970.

 

The joy of jazz guitar continued with an anecdote about and tip of the hat to singer Frank Sinatra on "Night and Day," a classic from Ol' Blue Eyes'
Whitfield, Del Gatto
extensive repertoire. Whitfield and the band finished with a brief romp through the jazz chestnut "Invitation." 

This was a deep experience for each of these masterful musicians. Throughout the night, Whitfield seized opportunities to interact one-on-one with the other players, either by comping behind their solos or trading melodic phrases. He clearly loved the musical ideas they shared with him and the audience. 

Stawski, Whitfield, Del Gatto, Mauldin, Sandke, Harvey

Monday, January 16, 2023

The Jazz Cruise is back with vigor and surprises

After two years of pandemic-prompted cancellations, The Jazz Cruise picked up right where it left off in January 2020. This year's January 6-13 sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to the Caribbean was loaded with talent, peerless playing and a few splendid surprises.

How to describe it in a nutshell? The finest jazz performed in varied combinations between early afternoon and 1 a.m. On several days, the music began before noon. And that doesn't count  lectures, interviews, and daily passenger jam sessions that stretched from 9:30 a.m.  to 2:30 p.m.

More than 100 musicians were aboard, with the headliners including singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, pianist Monty Alexander and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. The Jazz at Lincoln Center artistic director came aboard with his octet during the Celebrity Millennium's (8 a.m. to 11 p.m.) extended stop in Cozumel, Mexico.

Each band aboard the cruise performed three times during the course of the week, so you could catch someone later if you had a conflict with another show in one of the ship's four performance venues. Players were also mixed-and-matched in eight different top-notch All-Stars concerts. Deck Four's Rendezvous Lounge specialized in piano trio and solo piano shows that had an up close, in-your-living-room atmosphere.

Sutton, Holmes
Here is a chronological rundown of some of my personal favorites from the week's many offerings:

  • Singer Tierney Sutton's opening night Sky Lounge performance with her longstanding band included the first of the cruise's "you had to be there" moments. Singer Clint Holmes jumped on stage for the finale, joining Sutton in a clever scatting duet on Bob Dorough's "Devil May Care."
  • Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon's Gospel Hour is a treat each time out, this one bringing the jazz church to a Saturday morning, because it was a day at sea unfettered by a port-of-call. Gordon opened with a duet with pianist Lafayette Harris Jr. on Thomas A. Dorsey's "Precious Lord" before bringing out band mates Terell Stafford, Rickey Woodard, Javier Nero, Matthew Parrish and Eric Harland. Singer Niki Haris added rousing gospel vocals on "Precious Memories" and "This Little Light of Mine." Gordon, shifting between horns and vocals, shared an original pandemic-inspired tune, "Blues 2020."

Godwin Louis, Etienne Charles

  • Trinidad-born Etienne Charles treated the audience to bop and non-bop material flavored with the rhythms and musical spices of the Caribbean with his Creole Soul band. This younger band included alto saxophonist Godwin Louis, Cuban pianist Axel Tosca, guitarist Alex Wintz, bassist Barry Stephenson and drummer Savannah Harris. With Charles shifting between trumpet and congas, they put fresh stamps on Trinidad boogie-woogie pianist Winifred Atwell's "Coronation Rag," Henri Salvador's "Dans Mon Ile," which Antonio Carlos Jobim said influenced him in developing the bossa nova, some Hazel Scott, Bob Marley's "Turn Your Lights Down Low," and a vibrant calypso, among others.

Sing, Sing, Sing

  • Sing, Sing, Sing was a stand, stand, standout. Musical director and pianist Shelly Berg performed with nine of the singers on the cruise. Each talked about their primary influence in deciding on jazz careers, then shared a tune of their choosing that underscored their individual styles. This 90-minute gem was a mutual admiration society event with John Pizzarelli, Bridgewater, Sutton, Holmes, Haris, Kurt Elling, Ann Hampton Callaway, Bria Skonberg and rising star Samara Joy. whose sheer vocal power and artistry had her peers' jaws dropping. Callaway's segment had the audience - and all of the other singers - in stitches, as she improvised lyrics that spoke to each of their traits and background stories that they shared minutes before. It was clever - and masterfully done. Here's a link to the YouTube clip.

  • Gordon, Marsalis
    New Orleans jazz flavors were prominent throughout the Wynton Marsalis Octet concert. They explored "No Surrender" from the leader's Integrity Suite, and "Deeper Than Dreams" and "Ballot Box Bounce" from the The Democracy Suite. Former sideman Wycliffe Gordon joined the festivities for "Buddy Bolden's Blues" and "Basin Street Blues." Alto saxophonist Wes Anderson, another Marsalis band alum, who was aboard the cruise as a passenger, joined the band on "Moscow Blues."

Samara Joy

  • Samara Joy, who turned 23 in November, only found her way to jazz at age 17, but has absorbed much from studying the masters - and transforming it into a personal style. While Sarah Vaughan is the primary influence, she also shared material from Carmen McRae, Abbey Lincoln and Betty Carter in her performance with pianist Luther Allison, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington. She also performed Barry Harris’ composition "Now and Then," to which she added original lyrics.

Bridgewater, McBride, Green

  • Bassist Christian McBride teamed with two old friends and band mates, pianist Benny Green and drummer Greg Hutchinson, to celebrate the impact and musical legacy of bass great Ray Brown by performing material from his repertoire. All three had worked in Brown's bands, McBride in SuperBass, a project that also included The Jazz Cruise's big band director, John Clayton.The high-level performance finished with a fourth former Brown collaborator. Dee Dee Bridgewater joined the trio for "I'm Beginning to See the Light" and "Here's That Rainy Day." Misty eyes and goosebumps prevailed - on stage and in the audience.

Wintz, Hart,Sewell

  • John Hart teamed with Wintz and Marvin Sewell for a Guitar Summit, in which each of the players chose tunes and then shifted between melody, harmony and rhythm responsibilities. With no other musicians on stage, it was intimate and riveting.
  • Keyboard Capers, produced by Emmet Cohen, featured 14 of the cruise's 18 pianists in a 90-minute showcase. (Ted Rosenthal, Billy Childs, Christian Sands, Benny Green, Renee Rosnes, Christian Tamburr, Luther Allison, Emmet Cohen, Christian Jacob, Kenny Banks Jr., Axel Tosca, Tamir Hendelman, Sullivan Fortner, Bill Charlap.) Each performed a solo piano piece in his or her own style, then handed off to the next player. All were riveting.   
For example,
Trading off, Keyboard Capers
 Sands shared an instant improvisation inspired by his trip to the beach in Nassau, Bahamas that morning.
Tosca played the Cuban son-pregón "El Manisero, known in English as "The Peanut Vendor." Tamburr added a twist by playing "I Remember You" on vibes. This lively session closed with a four-six- and even eight-hands romp through Charlie Parker's "Billie's Bounce" as the players took turns at the shared piano.

It felt like a Day 7 highlight, even though there were nine more sets scheduled that afternoon and night, including Monty Alexander's third trio show. Much like Benny Golson did a few years ago, he spent time between songs reminiscing about his influences and inspirations.

The Jazz Cruise began in 2001. Because of the pandemic lull, this was its 21st sailing. Founder Anita Berry took Hank O'Neal's old Floating Jazz Festival concept of the 1980s and '90s, which had heavy concentrations of jazz on regular sailings of the SS Norway and a few other ships, and upped the game. She chartered an entire ship for an all-jazz cruise. Her son, Michael Lazaroff, has continued the tradition.

The Jazz Cruise was followed by this week's Blue Note at Sea. The Jazz Cruises LLC series continues for the next two weeks with sailings of The Smooth Jazz Cruise.

Wycliffe Gordon's Gospel Hour with Niki Haris

Thursday, December 29, 2022

2022: The Year in Jazz

All About Jazz has published my comprehensive look back at happenings in the jazz world during 2022. At more than 14,000 words, it's not for the faint of heart.

Here's the summary lead:

Current events impacted the jazz world in significant ways throughout 2022. In its third year, the coronavirus pandemic continued to lurk in some settings, while others recovered in robust fashion. Russia's war on Ukraine was felt by musicians and triggered an outpouring of support for its victims. Initiatives to ensure greater equity in jazz advanced. 

The 11th annual International Jazz Day blended in-person and livestreamed events around the globe. The National Endowment for the Arts welcomed four new NEA Jazz Masters and bid farewell to three others who were among the hundreds of industry-associated musicians and figures passing away during the year.

You can read it here at the AAJ website.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A jazzed winter wonderland

Saxophonist and singer Valerie Gillespie added a full holiday twist to the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert season on Monday, December 12 in Punta Gorda FL. She and her talented sextet from the Tampa Bay area coursed through 15 winter- or Christmas-themed musical chestnuts before closing with a brief salute to another holiday. 

Valerie Gillespie
There was a wide variety to the music, performed with both cohesiveness and strong solos. Her band included trumpeter James Suggs and three new faces on the CCJS stage: pianist Jody Marsh, bassist Steve Boisen and drummer Dave Rudolph. 

The leader shifted between alto and soprano saxes and flute, plus vocals on two-thirds of the material. Suggs added beautiful horn solos and fills behind Gillespie's vocals all night long. 

Gillespie has been a familiar face on the CCJS stage in other musicians' bands, but this was her first appearance as a bandleader and singer.

Gillespie said the evening would include "traditional tunes performed in a non-traditional way," an apt description for the rhythmic choices and extended instrumental solos that enhanced them.

Valerie Gillespie
"Angels Heard on High" and "Winter Wonderland" preceded two classic Vince Guaraldi tunes from television's A Charlie Brown Christmas. "Skating" was presented in a friskier arrangement than the evocative original, while "Christmas Time is Here" was more traditional, with Gillespie's vocals beautifully locked into its nostalgic message. She has a charming, no-frills and trills vocal delivery - and a natural sense of timing and off-the-beat phrasing.

Three standout vocal gems this night included material not often heard in jazz settings: "Mary Did You Know?," the Carpenters' hit "Merry Christmas Darling," which featured a poignant solo from Suggs, and "It Can't Be Christmas Without You." The latter romantic ballad has all of the qualities needed to become a true holiday standard. Gillespie's big brother, Chuck Brand, wrote this title track on her Christmas CD. Her cover of "Mary Did You Know?" was particularly powerful, with Gillespie noting that the lyrics speak directly to "the reason for the season." Mark Lowry and Buddy Green wrote this gem in 1984. It was a huge hit for the young a capella group Pentatonix 30 years later.

James Suggs
Other selections included "The Christmas Waltz," first popularized by Frank Sinatra, featuring the leader on vocals and alto sax, a Latin-tinged take on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and "Little Drummer Boy" (a natural feature for Rudolph's percussion mastery). Also, "Let It Snow," a frisky cover of the 1954 Eartha Kitt hit "Santa Baby" (with Suggs' growling trumpet complementing the vocals), and Mel Torme's classic "The Christmas Song."

Jody Marsh
If food and beverage had been allowed, chestnuts roasting on an open fire would have been a popular item. The audience started out at nearly 200, but dropped off in size by intermission. Credit that to a very chilly - and unadjustable - room temperature at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center. Hot chocolate, anyone?

The evening wound down with "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," spotlighting Marsh's piano artistry on CPAC's Steinway; a salsa-fied take on "Feliz Navidad," with Gillespie shifting to flute; and a brief romp through "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

While past December bands usually played a few holiday tunes, this was the first CCJS concert that featured them for the entire program. That made this night even more special for hardy listeners.

The Charlotte High School jazz ensemble performed a fine and varied pre-concert set.

Marsh, Gillespie, Boisen, Suggs, Rudolph

Charlotte High School Jazz Ensemble

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Favorite jazz recordings of 2022

‘Tis the season for the outpouring of Top 10 lists, and their many variations, for jazz, world events, etc. The jazz lists have a lot of variation depending on the individual reviewer's personal tastes, as well as what they listened to during the year. Bottom line, all are extremely subjective.

My favorite choices below (aside from the favorite new songs of the year) are being submitted to the Jazz Journalists Association and the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll 2022 compilations. The latter is the 17th annual Francis Davis-founded and Tom Hull-produced poll, which has been published by the Boston-based online arts journal The Arts Fuse since 2021. It previously was published by The Village Voice, Rhapsody.com and NPR Music.

As I begin preparing my review of significant events and trends in jazz in 2022 for All About Jazz, I thought I'd share my 2022 favorites lists.

Favorite new jazz releases of 2022

  1. Dave Wilson Quartet, Stretching Supreme (self-released)
  2. Lynne Arriale, The Lights Are Always On (Challenge) 
  3. Wayne Shorter, Terri Lyne Carrington, Leo Genovese, esparanza spalding, Live at the Detroit Jazz Festival (Candid) 
  4. Jo Harrop, The Heart Wants (Lateralize) 
  5. Javon Jackson, The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni (Solid Jackson) 
  6. Samara Joy, Linger Awhile (Verve) 
  7. Steven Feifke and Bijon Watson, … present Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra (Cellar) 
  8. Sam Kirmayer, In This Moment (Cellar Music) 
  9. Ricky Ford, Paul's Scene (Whaling City) 
  10. Chris Cortez, Live at Blue Bamboo (Blue Bamboo)

Favorite 2022 vocal recordings  

  1. Jo Harrop, The Heart Wants (Lateralize)
  2. Samara Joy, Linger Awhile (Verve) 
  3. Tierney Sutton, Paris Sessions 2 (BFM Jazz) 
  4. Mark Winkler, Late Bloomin' Jazzman (Café Pacific) 
  5. Carol Sloane, Live at Birdland (Club 44) 
  6. San Gabriel 7 featuring Sinne Eeg, Under the Stars (JRL-SGS) 
  7. Catherine Russell, Send For Me (Dot Time) 
  8. Kim Nalley Band, I Want a Little Boy (self-released) 
  9. Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymée Nuviola, Live in Marciac (5Passion) 
  10. Xiomara Torres, La Voz Del Mar (Patois)

Favorite historical/reissues of 2022 (includes any recordings made over 10 years ago, whether newly released or reissued):

  1. Bill Evans, Morning Glory (Resonance)
  2. Ahmad Jamal, Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse1965-1966 (Jazz Detective) 
  3. Dave Brubeck Trio, Live From Vienna 1967 (Derry Music) 
  4. Charles Mingus, Mingus: The Los Album From Ronnie Scott's (Resonance) 
  5. Ella Fitzgerald, Ella at the Hollywood Bowl: The Irving Berlin Songbook (Verve) 
  6. Elvin Jones, Revival: Live at Pookie's Pub (Blue Note) 
  7. Chet Baker Trio, Live in Paris (Elemental) 
  8. Clark Terry, Big Bad Band, Live in Holland 1979 (Storyville) 
  9. Frank Kimbrough, 2003-2006 (Palmetto)
  10. Peck Allmond Quartet, Live at Yoshi's 1994 (Eastlawn)

Favorite 2022 debut recording
     Timothy Norton, Visions of Phaedrus (Truth Revolution Recording Collective)

Favorite 2022 Latin/Brazilian jazz recordings:

  1. Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre, Visión (Ovation)
  2. Miguel Zenón, Música de las Américas (Miel)
  3. Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola, Live in Marciac (5Passion)
  4. Xiomara Torres, La Voz Del Mar (Patois)
  5. Juan Carlos Quintero, Table for Five (Moondo)

Favorite new compositions from CDs released in 2022, listed alphabetically by composers:

  • Lynne Arriale, ”Sounds Like America” from The Lights Are Always On (Challenge)
  • Bob Bowman, “Yae San”” from Josh Nelson/Bob Bowman Collective, Tomorrow is Not Promised (Steel Bird)
  • Yelena Eckemoff, “Like Rain Upon the Mown Grass” from I Am a Stranger in This World (L&H)
  • Yosef Gutman and Gilad Ronen, “Joshua” from Yosef Gutman, Upside Down Mountain (independent)
  • Jo Harrop, Natalie Williams, James McCredie, Hannah Vasanth, “Weather the Storm” from Jo Harrop, The Heart Wants (Lateralize)
  • Timothy Norton, “King's Inn” from Visions of Phaedrus (Truth Revolution Recording Collective)
  • Rick Roe, “Agent 88” from Roe Bickley Kramer, Lucid Dream (RNR Unknown)
  • Jamieson Trotter and Mark Winkler, “Old Enough” from Mark Winkler, Late Bloomin' Jazzman (Café Pacific)
  • Walt Weiskopf, “Other Jewels” from Walt Weiskopf European Quartet, Diamonds and Other Jewels (AMM)
  • Miguel Zenón, “Imperios” from Música de las Américas (Miel) 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The joy of piano personified

Pianist Bobby van Deusen returned to southwest Florida on Friday, November 22 with a long-overdue performance that celebrated his mastery of virtually every keyboard style - delivered with joy and enthusiasm.

The Pensacola-based keyboard marvel hadn't performed locally in nearly four years, thanks to pandemic and hurricane postponements.That made his performance in Morrie Trumble's South County Jazz With Morrie series even more special.

Over nearly two hours, van Deusen covered a lot of territory, both stylistically and in the sourcing of his material.

"I'm gonna play a lot of tunes everybody knows," he told the audience at the at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice. "That seems cliched, but they're not cliched if you play them your own way." And he did.

Van Deusen won his second senior division title at the World Championship Old-Time Piano-Playing Contest over Memorial Day Weekend in Oxford, Mississippi. He said he is gunning for a third.

The tunes of the day ranged Scott Joplin's ragtime classic "The Entertainer" to Bobby Troup's classic "Route 66" to Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll" to a stunning, shortened version of his amazing "Phantom of the Opera" medley.

"Route 66" was an appropriate inclusion, as van Deusen took various turns all afternoon down Ragtime Road, Stride Street, Boogie-Woogie Boulevard and Classical Circle to add delicacy or thundering passages as the moment prompted him. At times he sounded like the piano duo Ferrante & Teicher rolled into one.

"I Left My Heart in San Francisco" was embellished with lush ornamentation and stride segments. He also dug with zest into "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "Tenderly," "Mandy, Make Up Your Mind" (one of his Old-Time Piano-Playing Competition" selections this year), "Edd Tide," the Four Freshmen hit "Shangri La," "Stardust," Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness," and a eye-popping take on Willie "The Lion" Smith's aptly named composition, "The Fingerbreaker." There were many others, as well.

Late in the program, he dropped in a teasing, sometimes off-kilter version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" that resolved with a lot of boogie-woogie. 

In the spirit of the season, he added a few classics from Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas repertoire, including the joyous "Linus and Lucy" and "Skating." He closed the afternoon with a holiday medley that opened and closed with popular singer Andy Williams' 1963 hit "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

For van Deusen, the afternoon revealed that he is consumed with sharing his love of piano - right down to his socks.