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A Texan, A Painter and a Dropout

Nick Catalano By

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[Romare Bearden] whose 'Jazz' paintings have long been admired by musicians and writers but rarely exposed for the general public is finally getting his day.
Since its opening a few years back, Feinstein’s has paraded the best known pop singers in the business into its posh surroundings and charged its patrons a hefty penny to rub elbows with the likes of Rosemary Clooney, John Pizzerelli, Michael Feinstein, Keely Smith, Jim Webb, etc. Recently, the producers have veered away from the household names into relatively uncharted territory -the case during Valentine’s week when Steve Tyrell headlined.

Imagine the band (brilliantly fronted by hornmen Lou Soloff and Lou Marini) vamping the Intro for “Just the Way You Look Tonight.” You close your eyes, nestle into your softly upholstered chair, clasp your partner’s hand a bit tighter, and anticipate the warm resonance of one of the aforementioned usual suspects...But Lo! From the stage emanates a guttural southern drawl that startles but intrigues. Steve Tyrell is out there smiling, communicating and certainly swinging.

A veteran of multifarious show business activities (producer, record executive, writer) Tyrell constructed an act for his Feinstein’s stint that will be the envy of many a cabaret headliner—the material was expertly selected, the arrangements were tastefully written, and even the patter was rhetorically appealing. With standards such as “That Old Feelin’,” “Don’t Get Around Much Any More” and “It Had To Be You” being thrust into the happy Valentine’s throng, and the room replete with its usual compliment of glitterati, the patrons were in a festive mood.

An artist whose “Jazz” paintings have long been admired by musicians and writers but rarely exposed for the general public is finally getting his day. Romare Bearden (1911-1988), who spent most of his life as a pivotal figure in the legendary Harlem Renaissance and painted strategic themes in reflection of the African-American experience, spent much of his time depicting the Jazz world in all of its myriad complexity. From James P. Johnson to Earl Hines to Wynton Marsalis, Bearden recorded the development of the music from stride to neo-bop with an array of paintings accessible to all. The exhibition began at the National Gallery of Art in September, is presently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art until May 16 and then moves to Dallas (6-20), New York (10-14), and Atlanta in 2005. Bearden has long deserved an exhibition of this scope and his stature will certainly escalate because of it.

Vocalist Cheryl Bentyne, a 25-year member of the renowned Manhattan Transfer has released her debut Telarc CD Talk of the Town and it is, well, the talk of the town. With scintillating phrasing, haunting diction and sheer musicianship the album outguns any of its ilks thus far in the new year. Swinging mightily with her all-star supporting cast- pianist Kenny Barron, saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman, flugelhornist Chuck Mangione, percussionist Don Alias and drummer Lewis Nash, Bentyne leaps into your lap with a formidable repertoire and simply d-e-l-i-g-h-t-s.


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