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Live Reviews

Desmond and Clifton Swing at the Chadds Ford Winery

By Published: September 11, 2004
I had never heard either Tony De Santis (trumpet) or Victor North (sax) before, and my feeling was one of appreciation. Both are consummate professionals who give an impression of great skill and musical resilience. De Santis has the fine tone, articulation, and virtuosity of a classical musician, with vague shades of Bix Beiderbecke and Chet Baker somewhere in the mix. His soloing on the big band swing era tune, "Stompin' at the Savoy," was excellent, with fine articulation of rapid runs and the right placement of notes within the chord structure, neither too simplistic nor too far out and modernist. Indeed, I'd never heard a small group do this tune before. This crew managed to get it to swing conservatively, just the way it should. Victor North is a thoughtful, contemplative saxophonist who starts slowly, and waits for just the right inspirations to happen. He listens to, but never imitates his fellows. He soled marvelously on "This Can't Be Love," with a hint of Coltrane and Dexter Gordon here and there. At first, I thought he was a bit on the stiff side, but as the performance progressed, I grew to like the pensive way he constructed both solos and accompaniment.

The rhythm section had the right touch for an afternoon jazz picnic- light, not heavy, and with a certain restraint when needed, but able to "blow" intensely when the music called for it. For example, Steve Myerson's piano playing was just terrific. I flipped at a point where he did a short improv of parallel octaves on "Blackbird," a difficult maneuver at the least. Bassist Dave Brodie did some great improvising on "My Romance," where Mary Ellen and Meg allowed each sideman to solo and trade some eight and sixteen bar segments. Brodie and drummer Jim Schade provided solid bass and rhythmic backing throughout, adding just the right touch of embellishment when needed. They worked well with the vocal duo to build power and get the group swinging, yet they could back off in a mellow, cool way for the ballads and the bossa nova number, "The Little Boat."

All in all, it proved to be a very enjoyable and artfully put together afternoon, leaving me with the odd but warming feeling that art can be entertaining and entertainment can be art, something I don't easily own up to. I liked seeing Mary Ellen coming into her own, loosening up and gaining confidence. She and Meg work together like a charm, and one hopes, given their individualistic nature and commitments, that they will continue to devote time to their duo performances. Mary Ellen- believe it or not- sings opera on the side! And Meg is a voice instructor in the Music Department of the University of the Arts. These two women take their work seriously- yet their obvious enjoyment of what they do is contagious. We'd love to hear more and more from them, as well as from the great instrumental ensembles they put together for their gigs.

The Chadds Ford Wine and Jazz Festival went on for the entire weekend, and my brief sampling of it made me want to go back for more next year. I was told that the Winery, in addition to their vintage brews, produces a variety of musical events throughout the year. Whether you live in the greater Philadelphia/ Wilmington and Delaware Valley areas or might just be traveling through, check their website for listings. The whole ambience of the place gets a high rating from yours truly, and you might just find yourself spending a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon or evening there.

Visit the Chaddsford Winery on the web.



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