added personal insights for a full house of enthusiastic Arizona fans.
With John Clayton fronting the band as director, the concert opened with "Georgia on My Mind," the usual ballad treatment swapped for a fast-driving arrangement with ample space for tenor saxophonist Rickey Woodard
's purely captivating piano explorations of the simple melody line, Hamilton sweeping it along via inventive brushwork. Another change of pace was "Hat's Dance," a new original composed by Hendelman and drummer Hamilton, honoring the latter's 90-year-old mother, Harriet (nicknamed Hat) with a solid groove featuring more of Jeff Clayton's flute and the pianist's extraordinary command of the keys.
This band's command of dynamics, from musical murmurs to exciting roars, continued with a pair of tribute charts. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," composed in honor of Lester Young
(another Arizona native), featured more of Clayton's alto flute countering his brother's liquid-silver bass moves, as the brass wailed mournful minors and Owens' tenor crooned deep shades of blue. The second salute was bassist Ray Brown
'x "Evidence" to set up Jenkins' crisp angular open-horn progressions as the sax section coalesced in unison. The anticipated "Indiana" (Hamilton's birthplace) was unexpectedly played in slow-meter, as was "Emily," both featuring the Clayton brothers on bowed bass and lyrical alto sax. The trombone section, three-quarters of which have been with the band since its 1985 inception, was featured on an upbeat "I Love Being Here with You," with solo spots by Ira Nepus
to support tenor man Owens again delivering a feature solo as Clayton turned into a dancing director during the orchestra's shout choruses, leading back to Hendelman's Basie-style finish.
The concert was the last in a series for John Clayton as artist-in-residence for the fourth year of the Mesa Arts Center's "Jazz from A to Z" program that focuses on music performance and music history as related to jazz. Clayton has led classes and workshops at the center and in schools for students and teachers, and the 550-seat theater's balcony was filled with high school students. Last year, he also performed in a quintet with his pianist son Gerald Clayton