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Noel Freidline Quintet At The Jazz Corner's 20th Anniversary Party

Martin McFie By

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Noel Freidline Quintet
The Jazz Corner
20th Anniversary Party
Hilton Head Island
March 31, 2019

The All About Jazz worldwide poll to find member's favourite jazz clubs had closed (view results), and The Jazz Corner on Hilton Head Island reached the top 20 clubs in the world. At that same moment, The Jazz Corner was celebrating its 20th anniversary party.

March 31st, 1999 was the black-tie opening night, and Sir George Shearing was the first musician to play the acoustically balanced room. On that same date in 2019, twenty years later, on a twelve-mile long vacation island in South Carolina, The Noel Freidline Quintet took the stage to celebrate, because the Jazz Corner was still open.

Noel Freidline played the introduction for Maria Howell to sing the Peggy Lee song "I Love Being Here With You." They rolled straight into Irving Berlin's gentle dance classic "Cheek to Cheek" stirring memories of Fred Astaire spinning Ginger Rogers across the soundstage in the movie Top Hat, singing to her as they danced.

The quintet included Juan Rollan on tenor saxophone and Billy Thornton on bass, with Al Sergel on percussion. Freidline has been playing New Year's Eve at The Jazz Corner for the last 16 years and recalled a tuner repairing a stuck sustain pedal on the piano in the middle of his performance last year. That incident led to the purchase of the new piano he was playing.

They went on with "L.O.V.E." (was made for me and you) from Nat "King" Cole's final album. Freidline and Howell sang as a duet and included scat sections back and forth between them. There was also an excellent drum solo with brushes from Sergel.

After a full flourishing introduction by Freidline on piano, they went into Hoagy Carmichael's beautiful tune, "The Nearness of You." Rollan carried the melody from the shadows of the music while Freidline played in counterpoint to Howell's voice, which reached up to the top of her register. Rollan came out of the shadows to perform a soft solo, leaning back.

The Jazz Corner owner Lois Masteller stepped onto the stage and received a standing ovation. Gracious and elegant, she thanked friends, patrons, musicians, and all of her staff as the room toasted her, and the next 20 years. As a tribute to Mrs. Masteller and her late husband Bob, the quintet played one of their favorites, Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose."

It's a hard road keeping a jazz club alive, and seemingly impossible away from a big city environment. However unlikely, there it is, open seven nights a week, and the All About Jazz members poll accolade proves it remains popular on the world stage.
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