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Jack Sheldon Quintet at the Lighthouse

Jim Santella By

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The Lighthouse
Hermosa Beach, California
June 19, 2005

Father's Day brought out a leisure-loving audience of dedicated jazz fans for Jack Sheldon's warm performance at the historic Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach for Sunday brunch. It makes no difference whether you're young or old, modern or traditional, East Coast or West Coast, or just plain ambivalent. Everybody likes Jack Sheldon. At 73, he's at the peak of his career. The music has never sounded better, he's able to reflect casually on a large variety of issues, and his genuine nature emerges through every note he plays and every syllable he sings.

Sheldon grew up in Detroit and moved to Los Angeles in 1947. He joined the Air Force and paid his dues in military bands. In the mid-1950s he worked with Stan Kenton, and soon developed working relationships with notable West Coast jazz veterans such as Art Pepper, Shelley Manne and Curtis Counce. A long and endearing musical relationship with Chet Baker followed, and that has had a major impact on Sheldon's musical tastes. Like Baker, he places a high regard on good trumpet tone quality and entertaining vocals that flow naturally. When he performs the audience is made to feel that they are an integral part of his musical conversation with them. His jokes, long a staple of his nightclub performances, flow spontaneously with his specific audience in mind.

Along with saxophonist Tom Kubis, pianist Ross Tompkins, bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Ralph Penland, the veteran trumpeter/singer gave the Lighthouse audience three thrilling sets, interpreting a program of familiar songs that included "Lester Leaps In," "Robin's Nest," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Dinah," "Satin Doll," and several tender ballads, including "My Funny Valentine," "Stardust" "Our Love is Here to Stay," and "I Can't Get Started."

Casual, and sharing his musical enjoyment with all, Sheldon traded solos with the others and brought his cohesive ensemble through a seamless performance that was recorded for later release on the Woofy Productions label. His genuine spirit glowed from the stage like a beacon.

While the performance ran high with superb musicianship and authentic passion all afternoon, there was one high point above all the others. That was Sheldon's interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Satin Doll." His trumpet soared with clarion calls that echoed through the room with a powerful resonance. He sang Johnny Mercer's lyrics with compassion and with a pervasive mood that communicated the song's thoughts immediately. With Kubis on tenor, he took the band through a few steps that gave this old standard a new coat. Piano and bass followed Sheldon's trumpet feature with the same kind of aplomb. Everybody benefits when this veteran trumpeter leads his ensemble through its sweltering whirls and its placid discourse. To quote an anonymous source, "A good time was had by all."

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