Jack Sheldon Quintet: Sunday Afternoons at The Lighthouse Cafe
Sunday Afternoons at The Lighthouse Cafe
Father's Day at the Lighthouse brought families together for this warm afternoon performance by the venerable Jack Sheldon and his musical partners. The weather in Hermosa Beach is pleasant all year round, and the jazz this day was a perfect match. Sheldon sings from the heart with his unique delivery, pours beautiful melodies forth from his horn, and leads his all-star quintet comfortably in this program of favorite songs.
Sheldon grew up in Detroit and moved to Southern California in 1947. He joined the Air Force and gained valuable experience working in military bands. In the mid-1950s, he worked with Stan Kenton and soon developed working relationships with notable West Coast jazz veterans such as Art Pepper, Shelley Manne and Curtis Counce. A long and endearing musical relationship with Chet Baker followed, and that has had a major impact on Sheldon's musical tastes. Like Baker, he places a high regard on good trumpet tone quality and entertaining vocals that flow naturally. When he performs, the audience is made to feel that they are an integral part of his musical conversation. His jokes, long a staple of his intimate club performances, flow spontaneously with his specific audience in mind.
Sheldon's quintet of Los Angeles veterans all flow from the same jazz sources on this Sunday date. Pianist Ross Tompkins, best known for his long tour of duty with Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show Orchestra, has developed a musical relationship with Sheldon that goes back several decades. Their intuitive interaction shows up throughout this Sunday afternoon performance. Saxophonist Tom Kubis, a Southern California big bandleader and well-known arranger, has recorded numerous albums; several with Sheldon as his guest.
Tony Dumas, a longtime bassist for Art Pepper, has served with some of the brightest stars, including Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson and Sarah Vaughan. Drummer Ralph Penland, whose credentials include tours with Frank Sinatra and Santana, has provided the rhythmic foundation for a long list of jazz legends, including Ahmad Jamal, Stan Getz, Eddie Harris, Chet Baker, Benny Golson, Benny Carter and James Moody. Dumas and Penland both have well-known Los Angeles reputations as first-call rhythm section-mates.
Casual and sharing his musical fun with all, Sheldon trades solos with the others and brings his cohesive ensemble through a seamless performance. Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll" brings trumpet and tenor together for a swinging romp through familiar territory. Note how effortlessly Sheldon sings this one as if he's talking to an old friend. Kubis and Tompkins turn in soulful solos that lead to Dumas' lyrical soliloquy and a closing vocal chorus, as Sheldon's warm melody ties the knot gracefully. "Lester Leaps In" lets the band express its bop roots, as soprano and trumpet roll with the punches. "Robbins' Nest" gives the session a similar rhythmic push that flows leisurely with a charming swing. Note the passion that flows naturally through this one, as Sheldon lets his horn do the talking.
Singing "My Funny Valentine" and "Dinah," Sheldon releases a fluid quality that sweeps the room with class. He interprets each in his characteristically unique manner, and reinforces each vocal message with heartfelt trumpet bravado. Similarly, "Cherry" and "Love is Here to Stay" find Sheldon comfortable in the arms of this vocal/instrumental format. Some singers play an instrument as an afterthought, and some instrumentalists sing on occasion. Sheldon does both naturally with equal authority and with a clear sense of direction. He knows how to communicate with others from all musical directions.
As the performance closes with "I Can't Get Started," you can feel the emotion gripping Sheldon's audience. They're under his spell. A graceful trumpet soliloquy and a quaint vocal interpretation lead to an inspired quintet performance. During Tompkins' quiet piano solo, you can hear the crash of dishes in the nearby kitchen, serving as a reminder that the afternoon's affair is surrounded in spontaneity: just like the music that Sheldon serves up everywhere he goes.
Tracks: Lester Leaps In; My Funny Valentine; Dinah; Robbins' Nest; Cherry; Sweet Georgia Brown; Satin Doll; Star Dust; Love is Here to Stay; I Can't Get Started.
Personnel: Jack Sheldon: trumpet, vocals; Tom Kubis: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Ross Tompkins: piano; Tony Dumas: bass; Ralph Penland: drums.
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