St. Peter's Church is always a busy place in New York to show respect for the music of jazz, with its regular vespers that feature those still creating jazz. Other times it's on a more somber note, becoming the appropriate host location for farewells such as the recent memorial celebration to the late pianist James Williams. However, on Sept. 19th (the night before the Williams Memorial), it became a host of different sorts, inviting a benefit concert for drummer Jimmy Lovelace who is fighting the tough fight against cancer and needs as much financial help to defray his medical expenses. Lovelace actually opened the ceremonies by exchanging vows with his new wife (they were formally married last year in Japan). She would later sing an emotional, heartfelt, and lyrically appropriate "Come Rain or Come Shine" to a standing ovation. The two sat atop the stage overlooking the many wonderful musicians who graced the event to perform on that Sunday night (Lovelace even occasionally lent his sticks to the musical proceedings, lightly swinging on brushes more often than not). Alto sax legend Lou Donaldson's group featured the as-legendary Dr. Lonnie Smith (organ) as well as Jimmy Cobb (drums) in a sweet and swinging-as-ever rendition of "You've Changed". Donaldson complemented Lovelace jokingly in midst of his set, saying "He's always been an out-of-the way drummer". Pianist Barry Harris performed (briefly with Lovelace accompaniment before Charli Persip switched with him) and also shared some nice words with regard to the always smiling Lovelace: "I've never seen him angry", insinuating that the drummer's sincere smiles are never just for show. Anyone who knows him or has even shared brief conversation with Lovelace knows that truer words have never been spoken. Brad Mehldau, and later Harold Mabern and George Coleman's group with bassist Lisle Atkinson preceded what was announced as "what you've probably all been waiting for". The 86-year old Hank Jones took to the stage leading a trio joined by veteran guitarist Eddie Diehl and up-and-comer Ilya Lushtak. Jones' playing and composure is ageless as he continues as if he were always the youngest of the Jones brothers, regardless that he's the oldest, and now - with Elvin's recent passing - he's the sole brother that remains. It was a jazz festival-like atmosphere honoring the unheralded drummer who obviously has always been well-respected by the many musicians who have been calling for his swinging and tasteful services behind the kit for decades, not to mention by the listeners-in-the-know who helped pack the space of St. Peter's for an evening that lasted over three hours.
- Laurence Donohue-Greene
Music stands at the weekly Sunday series at CB's Lounge are always a welcome sight. And when veteran saxophonist John Tchicai is behind one of them it is extra special. The AfroDanish alum of the New York Art Quartet and the New York Contemporary Five played a quartet set with saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase, bassist Adam Lane (who has brought Tchicai back into prominence) and drummer Lou Grassi. The music was extremely pleasing hard bop lines that expanded into true energy music, Tchicai either on alto or bass clarinet against Kohlhase's tenor, alto or baritone. Tchicai is the name of the group and, interestingly, his playing now may exceed that of his youth. But Lane and Kohlhase are the spark plugs in the form of vigorous aggressive sax and a thick earthy gravelly bass tone. Five numbers, primarily written by Tchicai and Lane (who is a compelling composer), from 8 to 20 minutes, mixed blues and bop liberally, working in some funky ostinatos and, of course, searing horn lines. Particularly appealing were the Tchicai-penned "Heksekyl" that closed with some bizarre scat singing by the composer and the closing medley of "Kneebop" and "Intonations for Being", by Lane and Kohlhase respectively, that was either a spiritual ballad or a smooth soul jazz excursion.