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Justo Almario Quartet: L. A. County Museum of Art Jazz Series, May 2, 2008

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Justo Almario Quartet
Friday Night Jazz Series, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Los Angeles, California
May 2, 2008

The weather was just right as a crowd of jazz enthusiasts gathered to experience the glorious and tireless musicianship of woodwind virtuoso Justo Almario and his ensemble May 2 at the Friday Night Jazz Series hosted by Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was jazz served up with sizzling sound-check appetizers, marvelous main courses, and dazzling desserts.

Almario conducted a sound check with the Jerome Kern standard, "All The Things You Are," which quickly captivated all those on hand. His attention to melody, harmony, and the essence of the tune during his warm-up was exquisitely beautiful, more like a finished product. Almario humbly accepted the applause and whispered into his microphone with a mischievous smile, "sound check, just a sound check." Merely a teasing appetizer for what was yet to come. The seating quickly filled at the outdoor venue, but latecomers weren't complaining even as they stood in crowded spaces. They were eagar to see Almario and his matchless supporting cast concoct a scrumptious musical meal for us.

The Thelonius Monk tune "I Mean You" was the starter course for the evening, intertwined with a quote from a Thelonius Monk/Kenny Clarke bop favorite "Epistrophy," which evoked nods of approval from both the rhythm section and the audience. Next up was Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," wonderfully performed at high speed. We continued our fine dining, enjoying the interaction of a trade of fours between the rhythm section and Almario. Staccato, legato, slurred, or tongued—the articulations of each note, effortless phrasing, and deft negotiation of chords made for an exciting statement, filling the atmosphere with joy. The audience even had an opportunity to join in during a soulful rendition of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," chanting the piece's title whenever cued by the leader.

The night provided another tempting course with a beautiful Cuban piece composed in the 1920s by Ernesto Lecuona—"Al Fin Te Vi." Adding to the enticement were Walter Rodriquez on drums and Edwin Livingston on bass, each providing alluring solos in addition to supporting Almario's brilliant mastery on clarinet. As the evening progressed, so did the quartet's vibrant expressiveness on each tune, assuring that no one was left unsatisfied by the delectable jazz delights of this rich musical feast.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) holds its Friday Evening Jazz Series throughout the remainder of spring and the entire summer for your music consumption.

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