It's refreshing when a musician who has spent dues-paying years in the shadows, closer to anonymity than fame, makes the most out of the chance to stand front and center. It was clear that drummer Bruce Jackson loved being on the bandstand when he performed at the Jazz Gallery recently. His trio treated the audience to tunes from Don't Sleep On Your Dreams, a debut album with tunes culled from a cross-section of timeless composers.
Jackson's approach is to maintain the songs' original texture while providing just enough variations to give them new angles. Wayne Shorter's "Footprints, for example, is played at a slightly slower tempo, which allows the trio to linger at the song's subtle edges. When Jackson, pianist Bob Himmelberger and bassist Nicolas Bayak performed this song live, their sound and cohesion recalled Coltrane's rhythm section. Himmelberger is a gifted and daring pianist who can play with arresting dexterity ("Rhythm-A-Ning ) or imbue the simplest chords with the deepest emotion ("Iris / Pee Wee ). The trio's rendition of the Weill/Gershwin chestnut "My Ship is as lovely a ballad as can be heard anywhere; Jackson's brushstrokes and Bayak's plucking give Himmelberger a firm foundation to tell the story.
Sometimes one doesn't want jazz that tries too hard to be innovative or to make a point. Something as elemental as a rhythm section will suffice. With a fine selection of songs and some kick-ass players to execute them, Don't Sleep on Your Dreams is a welcome emergence from the shadows.
Track Listing: Footprints; Firewater; Rhythm-A-Ning; Iris/Pee Wee; Paris Eyes; Never Let Me Go; Picadilly
Lilly; My Ship.
Personnel: Bob Himmelberger: piano; Nicolas Bayak: bass; Bruce Jackson: drums.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.