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Jerry Vivino and the LA/NY Jazz Trio: Half Moon Bay, CA, June 9, 2013

Bill Leikam By

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Jerry Vivino and the LA/NY Jazz Trio
Douglas Beach House
Half Moon Bay, California
June 9, 2013

Three top-flight jazz musicians—saxophonist/flautist Jerry Vivino (soprano, tenor, and baritone), the ever-inspiring pianist Mitchel Forman and stand-up bassist Kevin Axt (touted as being Los Angeles' busiest bassist)—presented themselves on a breezy, sunny afternoon at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, aka the Douglas Beach House. As these three jazz musicians took the stage, they carried with them deep histories and experiences, having played with some of jazz's legendary bandleaders and musicians: Forman played with Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan; Axt played with Chuck Mangione and Phil Woods; and Vivino packed with him his present gig as a member of the Basic Cable Band, the house-band for television's The Conan O'Brien Show, Wynton Marsalis and many more. As they walked on, the audience acknowledged them with hearty applause, having come to hear selections from the song books of traditional jazz composers including George Gershwin, Cole Porter, John Coltrane, Thad Jones and Thelonious Monk, among others.

It's clear that Vivino has the chops to take a traditional jazz tune like "The Sunny Side of the Street," massage it through his flute, and elevate it to another level. Add to that Forman and Axt, and what do they produce? Wickedly wonderful jazz. This was supported at the end of the first set by a highly knowledgeable member of the audience, a jazz drummer himself, who said that he'd rate the performance an easy ten-plus.

With a few words of introduction, the trio launched into Johnny Mandel's "Emily." From the top, it was clear that this trio exemplified the best in professional musicianship; they were as tight as a guitar string and as precise on the uptake as is humanly possible. By the third tune, "While My Lady Sleeps" written by Bronislau Kaper for the 1946 stage play The Chocolate Soldier, they changed up from the prior two tunes. Axt opened the piece with a walking bass line for several bars before Vivino came in exactly on cue. He took the song's melody straight out on his tenor sax while Axt slipped to the background, but his bass was never overwhelmed by the sax nor by Forman. Axt had a way of making his bass heard, even If a number was crazily intense. It was within this tune that Vivino treated the audience to his technique of popping (lip-snapping) on the reed. The trio carried it off smoothly and with a lyrical feel all the way through.

During the second set, the trio stretched out by inserting, here and there, improvisational runs that took Coltrane's "Giant Steps" right to the edge. It was Forman who led the way and took the piece to new heights with playing that had a classical, almost symphonic flavor in places yet, at the same time, always keeping an overall swinging and jazzy feel. Vivino opened on his flute and, several bars later, both Axt and Forman entered the piece simultaneously. Midway through, Axt took a solo and he, too, pushed the envelope by slapping his bass and playing it in an unconventional manner.

By the end of the second set, the LA/NY Jazz Trio had seduced the audience, taking it on a ride through a wide variety of music and song. Vivino's vocals added considerably to the concert. The sun was just going down when the trio wrapped the last tune of the set, "Cherokee." As the tune culminated, the audience rose from its chairs and gave the trio a huge round of applause, peppered with shouts of, "More, more," and "Encore, encore"; although the band did not reassemble, everyone still walked away from the Douglas Beach House satisfied that they had heard a unique and deeply satisfying trio.

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