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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Live From New York

June 2004

By Published: June 12, 2004
Like the warm breath of a Ben Webster tenor sax solo, Shirley Horn’s genuine atmospheric bluesy vocal approach comes across as natural a delivery as her own soft speech, tender but assured, vulnerable but intentionally so. Her first of three nights at Le Jazz Au Bar (May 14) showcased the veteran vocalist whose approach lends itself to the inherent problem of aging vocal chords for any singer just turned 70. Performing for over 50 years, Horn fortunately works within a non-demanding style, a smoky mid-range paired down to perfection over the years. Even before her renaissance in popularity since recording for Verve in 1987, Horn’s early recognition and support from Miles Davis and others has been well earned. One of jazz’ most consistent performers, Horn breathes new life into everything she’s sung, from ballads to blues to more upbeat numbers on which her patented low-key approach always prevails. Every resonating syllable sung in “Time for Love” exploited the club’s great sound which served ideal for the tight, swinging supportive rhythm section trio of George Masterhazy (piano), Ed Howard (electric bass), and Steve Williams’ (drums) superb cymbal work in particular. Just the right amount of reverb and amplification was given for the performances of Peggy Lee’s “Fever”, Lennon/McCartney’s “Yesterday”, “Our Love is Here to Stay”, and “Here’s to Life”, showing that Horn quite literally has one of the most memorable breaths in all of jazz.

~ Laurence Donohue-Greene

A temperate early Saturday evening was spent at the unpretentious 5C Café, away from the bustle of the city’s “traditional” jazz venues. Appearing May 8th was the duo of vocalist Yoon Choi and pianist Jacob Sacks (the no horns or drums policy has still not kept this laudable venue from coming under attack by the City) presenting material by composer Joe Raposo. The name might not be familiar but the works, written for Sesame Street and The Muppets, has a timeless appeal. Jazz gets its inspiration from many places, why not simple graceful melodies for children?

Choi and Sacks are not the typical duo; Choi effortlessly mixes traditional jazz vocals with a sultrier approach or the gymnastics of the avant-garde. Sacks never plays the straight man, abstracting the melodies enough to keep each turn interesting. Contrary to normal course, Choi relies on Sacks’ percolations as much as Sacks follows Choi’s lead. “Bein’ Green” was sad and winsome. “J-Jump” and “La La La”, two songs about letters, gave Choi the opportunity to stretch her delivery. Ernie’s “Imagination” was the heartfelt ballad of the set, followed by a rambunctious “Happiness Hotel”. The closing “Sing”, popularized by Peggy Lee, saw Choi begin with a tongue-in-cheek attempt to sing out of tune before resolving into a lovely reading.

A triple bass bill should be enough to send most people screaming.. But the Carlini Group’s adventurous May 24th booking of three elders of the upright at Merkin Hall demonstrated why the bassist can make or break any band. Buster Williams, Eddie Gomez and Richard Davis represent nearly 150 years of combined experience; they also embody vastly different approaches. Williams, in trio with George Colligan and drummer Lenny White slinked around interpretations of “All of You”, “Little Girl Blue”, “Song for Thaddeus” and a mesmerizing solo “Summertime”. Eddie Gomez, mostly in duo with pianist Mark Kramer showed off his classical nimbleness an original apiece by himself and Kramer and several covers, Michel LeGrand’s “You Must Believe in Spring”, Johnny Mathis’ “Wonderful Wonderful” and a lovely version of Fiddler’s “Sunrise Sunset”, Gomez’s bowing used to great effect. Davis, the big draw of the evening, played with White and pianist James Williams on two numbers, “Strange Vibes” by Horace Silver and “Everytime We Say Goodbye”. Davis plays seated, his bass slung at almost a 45° angle, his arco the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard. The trio of bassists explored a long version of “Toku Do” as a rousing closer. Bassists such as Ron Carter, Rufus Reid, Lisle Atkinson, Hill Greene and Steve Tintweiss were in attendance to pay their respects.

~ Andrey Henkin

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