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Jessie Lambiase Featuring Gil Parris

Peter Jurew By

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Jessie Lambiase Featuring Gil Parris
Iridium
New York, NY
March 10, 2017

Lovers of fine guitar playing are aware of the monstrous chops of Gil Parris, the jazz, blues and rock master who has been called "one of guitardom's unsung heroes." How can it be that a virtuoso who's been nominated for a Grammy and recorded and toured both as a solo artist and sideman with the likes of Dr. John, Diane Schuur, and Bobby Caldwell, to name just a few, remains unsung? Show biz being what it is, answering that frequently-asked question would require far more space than this column allows. The good news is that Gil Parris is busy playing, recording and sharing his talents with those in the know.

Early March brought Parris to Iridium, the fine little basement club in New York City's theatre district, to lead a tight band in front of a packed house. Beyond the boyish enthusiasm and sensational guitar work one would expect—if not take for granted—of such a player, the evening brought a wonderful surprise in the person of the talented young woman fronting the band on vocals. Jessie Lambiase has worked with Parris regularly over the past couple of years: recently, she was one of the vocalists in his "Guitar Hits" project that took Iridium by storm earlier in the year and she's sung with Parris in collaborations that included Paul Shaffer, Bernie Williams, Michael McDonald, and Boz Scaggs. Currently, she and Parris are in the process of recording a new album together.

Headlining as part of Iridium's celebration of Women's History Month in March, Lambiase brought to the stage a sweet "aw-shucks" charm that immediately ingratiated herself with the packed house; then she, Parris and the band calmly proceeded to burn the roof off the club with a smoking set of jazz and pop classics that was spiced with a few originals.

The combination of sweetness and fire was a perfect approach for the set opener, Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good." The nerve-wracking city, "where everything can change," came across in Don Henley's "New York Minute." A pop tune, "Anything At All," by Dave Loggins, showed off Parris's ability to make easy-listening material stand up and deliver emotional depth. A Parris original, "When We Find Ourselves Alone," was played with smoldering fire.

Lambiase had a vocal field day on Janis Ian's "She Must Be Beautiful" before turning to the crowd-pleasing "Mister Magic," the Ralph MacDonald tune that became a huge instrumental hit by Grover Washington Jr. back in the day. Another audience favorite was "Little Sunflower," the Freddie Hubbard tune he originally recorded with the late, great Al Jarreau. Keeping it in the family just a bit, "Wait A Little While," a pop- flavored tune written by Dave Loggins' second cousin, Kenny, offered up a boldly optimistic take on life. Parris and Lambiase's original, "Your Love," was next, sensitive and heartfelt. Entering the home stretch, Lambiase rode for glory, taking on the ferocious Etta James barn-burner, "Damn Your Eyes," and succeeding in making the song her own. The evening closed with Diane Schuur's "Louisiana Sunday Afternoon," a fun, up tempo tune with which to send the appreciative audience out into the cold night.

The set confirmed a couple of things, at least: first, Gil Parris is an electric guitar monster with technique to spare, whose playing can go from sensitive finesse to breathtaking Hendixian eruptions at a moment's notice. Second, Lambiase is a singer to key an ear out for—she has a musical maturity and lyricism that belie her age. On this night, with first- rate support from Parris and company, she delivered a smart array of tasty tunes in winning style.

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