Carol Fredette and the N.Y. Jazz Nonet at The Garage; New Releases from Michel Camilo and Dimitri Vassilakis

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The Garage is an indoor/outdoor/restaurant/jazz room in Greenwich Village that captures some of the spirit of old 52nd Street clubs. Located at 99 7th Avenue South near Christopher, this boîte offers food and drink at sensible prices, important music, and the informal atmosphere that is so necessary for musicians and vocalists to perform to their potential, or just to meet, greet and hang. David Coss, the director (also a vocalist who leads his own trio), has replicated the nightly showcase format, brilliantly pioneered by The Bottom Line decades ago and sagaciously copied by jazz and comedy clubs ever since.

The N.Y. Nonet is a group of veteran jazzers whose cohesion and virtuosic personnel provide substantial repertorial flexibility. The band can perform any arrangement and is comfortable in disparate styles and periods. The night I came in they featured the charts of veteran writer Bill Whited, who has penned arrangements of classic bop tunes composed by the likes of Tadd Dameron and Horace Silver. "On A Misty Night and "Strollin' were the openers at the first set, and the music swung hard. Altoist Bob Porcelli ( a percipient veteran who had great success recording with Mel Tormé) was a lead soloist playing along with drummer Eliot Zigmund ( a Bill Evans alumnus) and nominal leader John Eckert on trumpet. Also featured were baritone saxophonist Terry Goss, trombonists Dave Gibson and Jason Jackson, bassist Ralph Hamperian, trumpeter Dave Smith and pianist Bob Albanese.

After this intriguing opening bop salvo, onto the stage came Carol Fredette performing big band charts from her halcyon days with Sal Salvador and Neal Hefti. Fredette has distinguished herself as a leading exponent of Brazilian music and as a seminal club performer with brilliant interpretations of composers such as Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough and Michael Franks. But her work with big bands has taken a back seat to the aforementioned small group gigs—until now. After a raucous opener—Jerome Kern's "The Song Is You — which revealed immediate rapport with the Nonet, Fredette segued into Harold Arlen's "I've Got The World On A String, and the magic intensified. Her masterful phrasing opened new dimensions as the rhythmic charge of the Nonet soared. One would have thought that vocalist and band had been together for years, but this was a one-night stand. The music of Johnny Green ("Body and Soul ) and Dave Frishberg ("Wheelers and Dealers ) followed, and the set wound up with the audience on its feet. Patrons left The Garage asking when Carol Fredette and the Nonet would be back for another go.

New Releases: Michel Camilo continues his successful run of CDs on Telarc with the release of Spirit Of The Moment, featuring Charles Flores on bass and Dafnis Prieto on drums. Camilo's last trio effort Live At The Blue Note was awarded a Grammy but the prolific pianist is still as determined as ever to jump at recording opportunities. This new CD features some classic jazz compositions—Wayne Shorter's "Nerfertiti, John Coltrane's "Giant Steps, and two Miles Davis pieces—"Nardis (composed with Bill Evans) and "Solar. Camilo notes that "this album is a landmark to me...It deals with both my roots and my influences, plus how my trio sound keeps expanding. Indeed, as prodigious a player as Camilo is, it has been the unique rhythmic and melodic chemistry of his trios that has placed Camilo in the vanguard of contemporary pianist/composers. In addition to straight-ahead jazz the CD explores more Afro-Caribbean sources ("Just Now, "My Secret Place, "Repercussions, and the title tune). Camilo fans won't be disappointed.

Finally, from Greece comes composer/vocalist/ tenorist Dimitri Vassilakis with a CD dubbed Parallel Lines. Vassilakis is one of a small but growing group of Greek saxophonists trying hard to expand the jazz scene in their country. Inspired by idols such as Sonny Rollins, Vassilakis has secured the efforts of Jeff "Tain Watts on the present release for Candid records and is booking dates to showcase his work here in the States.

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