L.A. Jazz Scene 2008: Alive and Swingin'
The John Beasley Quartet played a riveting night of music that left the audience hungry for more.
Class Back In Session
Kenny Burrell All-Stars
Culver City, California
December 31, 2008
On the last night of 2008, the Kenny Burrell All-Stars, featuring James Moody
The band opened with the Charlie Parker classic, "Yardbird Suite," Burrell tearing through the first solo with the swing and grace that has characterized his guitar mastery for nearly 60 years. Next, the irrepressible James Moody stepped up to the mike. No stranger to bebop, Moody was playing in big bands and small groups led by Dizzy Gillespie back in 1947 and two years later recorded, in Sweden, his immortal solo on "I'm in the Mood for Love." On the Bird vehicle, Moody breathed life into a tune he must have played thousands of times. Piano virtuoso Green, a relative "youngster," played a feverish, swingin' solo that reassured jazz fans the music's immediate future, anyway, is in solid hands.
As midnight approached, Burrell urged on the audience with the words, "Can't Wait to Get Out of 2008." Amen! Injecting the New Year with appropriate sentiment, Moody sang (predictably) "Moody's Mood for Love." With words supplied to his original solo by Eddie Jefferson (after which it became a hit record for King Pleasure), it was definitely the evening's highlight. As if his impersonation of the female part (originally sung by Blossom Dearie) weren't enough, Moody segued into a "rap" and, in the process, demonstrated that he is truly young at heart.
Kenny Burrell then introduced Green, who played a particularly dramatic solo interpretation of Jule Styne's "Time After Time." Green painted with a broad palette of piano colors, ranging from meditative blues to hot, electric reds, as this Bud Powell-influenced piano prodigy, once every jazz critic's nominee as heir apparent to Oscar Peterson, explored very personal inner lands.
And just like every Burrell gig, the band took the exit for the land of Ellingtonia. Burrell vocalized a silky interpretation of "In a Mellow Tone," then improvised some lyrics to Billy Strayhorn's "Take the A Train." The crowd, which included one of the most passionate (and certainly the tallest) jazz fans around in Kareem Abdul Jabbar, joyously shouted and clapped its approval.
What a way to end the year! 2008 began with Burrell and ended with Burrell. That happy coincidence speaks volumes about the quality of music listeners on the West Coast can enjoy most weeks of the year. So the next time you hear someone bad rap the L.A. jazz scene, let 'em know that the cats are swingin' hard here in the Southland.
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