All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

2

Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy Concert 2016

Victor L. Schermer By

Sign in to view read count
Mary Ellend Desmond
Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany
Comfort and Joy
Philadelphia, PA
December 11. 2016

Mary Ellen Desmond is one of the most highly regarded Philadelphia-based vocalists, and for the last thirteen years she has provided the inspiration and fronted a top of the line quartet for the annual Comfort and Joy holiday concert at the Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany. This reviewer, no particular fan of holiday rituals, has attended this concert most years since its inception. The holiday music and spirit is all there, but the emphasis is on genuine mainstream jazz, and it is performed in a church that not only has fine acoustics but whose congregation and its pastor, Roger Broadley, are profoundly dedicated to service in the community. The funds from this almost full-house performance were donated, as always, to the Saint Luke's Hospitality Center, an outreach ministry offering assistance to lives affected by AIDS / HIV, in particular in South Africa, where the epidemic is still taking many lives.

The concert began with an instrumental version of the traditional Hawaiian Christmas song "Melikalikimaka," which gave saxophonist Larry McKenna an opportunity to craft letter-perfect improvisations with his unique emotional truth. Desmond came on with a lively medley of "Happy Hoidays" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with pianist Tom Lawton providing champagne-like backdrop and solos. The good cheer continued with two less often heard seasonal tunes, "It Snowed," and "Snowed in with You," the latter from an Ohio-based couples group called Over the Rhine, and Jule Styne's "Winter was Warm" done as a vocal/piano duet. Desmond then threw in her own pitch for the City of Brotherly Love by transforming Anne Hampton Calloway's song about New York into "Philadelphia in December."

Every year in recent memory, Desmond has grabbed a local male vocalist to accompany her in Frank Loesser's perennial "Baby It's Cold Outside." Last year, drummer and sometime vocalist Bruce Klauber gave the male protagonist of the tune the twist of a lecherous seducer, while this year, John Adontes, relatively new on the jazz scene used his fine operatic chops in a more kindly fashion towards the snowed-in lady who simply wants to go home.

A compilation of Christmas tunes ("Little Jack Frost," "Christmas Time is Here," and "White World of Winter") was followed, as Desmond is wont to do, by a jazz tune that is also an expression of a worthwhile principle, in this case Abbey Lincoln's "Throw it Away," which urges us to let go of material things and give away our love. At around this point in time, bassist Lee Smith seemed to get in a groove that carried the group through the rest of the evening with bass lines that were like a fine vintage wine, while his solos became cleverly ingenious with a baroque flavor and a sonority that filled the room.

The show concluded with two holiday classics, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve" and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," with drummer Dan Monaghan providing exceptional brushwork. For an encore, Desmond called for the ballad "Love is Christmas," another song with the same potent message, that love for one another is the too often the forgotten meaning of the season. In this annual concert, Desmond always seems to remember the wounded and lonely ones among us, those for whom jazz itself sings the blues.

Personnel: Mary Ellen Desmond, vocals, leader/arranger); Larry McKenna, tenor saxophone; Tom Lawton, piano; Lee Smith, bass; Dan Monaghan, drums; John Adontes, guest vocalist.

Set List: (Vocals by Desmond unless otherwise noted.) Melikalikimaka (Traditional Hawaian) (Instrumental); Happy Hoidays/Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (arr. M.E. Desmond); It Snowed (M. Smith); Snowed in with You (Over the Rhine); Winter was Warm (J. Styne) (duo: vocal and piano); Philadelphia in December (A.H, Calloway; lyrics M.E. Desmond); Baby It's Cold Outside (F. Loesser) (duet with John Adontes); Little Jack Frost (K. Rusby); Christmas Time is Here (L. Mendelsohn; V, Guaraldi); White World of Winter (Carmichael/Parish) ; Throw it Away (A. Lincoln); What Are You Doing New Year's Eve (F. Loesser); I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm (I. Berlin) ; Encore: Love is Christmas (S. Bareilles).

Photo Credit: Victor L. Schermer

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018 Live Reviews
The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Chris Isaak at The Paramount in Huntington, NY Live Reviews
Chris Isaak at The Paramount in Huntington, NY
by Christine Connallon
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Detroit Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Detroit Jazz Festival 2018
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews
Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia 2018 Live Reviews
Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood Vampires, Black Asteroids & Paul Lamb Live Reviews
Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood...
by Martin Longley
Published: September 16, 2018
Read "Gary Peacock Trio at the Jazz Standard" Live Reviews Gary Peacock Trio at the Jazz Standard
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 14, 2017
Read "Jazz Jantar 2017" Live Reviews Jazz Jantar 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: December 21, 2017
Read "The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018" Live Reviews The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: September 23, 2018
Read "Dixie Dregs at the Boulder Theater" Live Reviews Dixie Dregs at the Boulder Theater
by Geoff Anderson
Published: April 28, 2018
Read "Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017" Live Reviews Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "Le French May’s Live Jazz Series in Hong Kong" Live Reviews Le French May’s Live Jazz Series in Hong Kong
by Rob Garratt
Published: June 11, 2018