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A Romantic Evening in Central Park 2004

Jim Santella By

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Pieces Of A Dream, Al Jarreau
Central Park in Huntington Beach, California
September 11, 2004

A quaint little park area behind the Central Library in Huntington Beach (CA) served as the backdrop for a daylong smooth jazz concert that featured Christine Day, Kevin Toney, Andre Delano, Richard Smith, Brian Bromberg, Pieces Of A Dream and Al Jarreau. L.A. was in the middle of a heat wave, but the park's ample shade trees and Pacific Ocean proximity guaranteed a pleasant weekend outing for the large crowd of faithful Southland jazz fans.

Pieces Of A Dream played selections from their new album, No Assembly Required. Audio samples may be found at the Heads Up label web site. Saxophonist Eddie Baccus charmed the audience with his suave manner and lyrical horns. Using tenor for slow ballads, alto for up-tempo thrillers, and soprano for sweeter moments, he set the mood. After the band brought out one of their chestnuts from a previous album, Baccus sustained one long soprano saxophone tone for what seemed like hours. Later, he strolled through the audience while serenading with saxophone in hand. His entertaining gestures and audience rapport ensured that everyone had a good time. With Curtis Harmon on drums, James Lloyd on keyboard, piano and vocals, Lamar Gaines, Jr. on keyboards and James Warner on bass, the band soared through familiar territory and proved that they remain in top form after all these years. As singer Tracy Hamlin led the band in "My Funny Valentine" and "Devotion," you could feel her genuine sense of caring. The band left everyone wondering, "How can anyone top this?"

Al Jarreau performed selections from his new album, Accentuate The Positive. Audio samples may be found at Jarreau's web site. His 40-minute set topped everything that had transpired during the day and evening. Filled with unbridled energy and as hip as ever, the 64-year-old jazz singer stormed through "Take Five," "Cold Duck" and other favorites. "Midnight Sun" brought out the singer's vintage romantic spirit and spread his message wide. Jarreau doesn't just sing a melody. He merely hints at it while the band provides a strong foundation. Larry Williams carried the melody of "Midnight Sun," for example, as Jarreau danced around its pattern, popping up with unexpected tones from every direction. It's that quality that makes him unique. He implies a song, and it's up to the band to make it recognizable. In one spiritual piece near the start of the program, singer Debbie Davis carried the melody while Jarreau moved this way and that with vocal spontaneity, thrilling everyone to no end. His encore gave additional proof that this special evening in Central Park would stand out as a memorable occasion. Besides, the chicken, ribs, and barbecue menu was more than enough to make the day a full one.


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