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...

124

Peter Nero/Philly POPS, with Ann Hampton Callaway, February 6, 2011

Lewis J Whittington By

Sign in to view read count
Peter Nero and the Philly POPS with Ann Hampton Callaway
Singin' & Swingin'
Kimmel Center Verizon Hall
Philadelphia
February 6, 2011

Peter Nero is so charming a bandleader for the Philly POPS that he could easily get away with phoning the music in, but with the pianist/conductor, that is never the case. The POPS' unique turf of symphonic jazz and big-band swing was on ample display at its Singin' & Swingin' concert, headlined by vocalist Ann Hampton Callaway.

Nero's high-profile conductor role overshadows his many talents as a jazz pianist, and POPS orchestras, in general, fight not to be viewed as musically lightweight, which was certainly not the case with this POPS, an orchestra in a distinct category of symphonic, big band jazz. Aside from many players, freelancing from the Philadelphia Orchestra (and other ubiquitous classical musicians), filling out the POPS, Nero had premiere players Michael Barnett on bass and George Mazzeo on drums, as well as a muscled horn section.

The orchestra kicked off with Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean A Thing," with more of a Count Basie drive in the swing itself. Nero followed up, he noted, with Basie's own arrangement of "All of Me." He actually flubbed his piano solo with an ice cold intro, but more than made up for it later, particularly during his interludes in an Ellington medley, with a minuet-laced "Satin Doll"" and steel-key "Take the 'A' Train" finale. The POPS was particularly vibrant on fast-tempo treatments of "There's a Boat Leaving Soon for New York," from Porgy and Bess, and the big band chestnut, "Two O'Clock Jump."

To celebrate Valentine's Day, Nero essayed the adagio movement of Rachmaninoff's "Symphony No. 2" as the most romantic piece of music he knows. The POPS struggled with it, sloshing around in symphonic soup, except for crescendos, which were in full-string bloom. The surface beauty was enough, apparently, when Nero announced a reprise, without cringing, and the audience was all for it. Luckily, it was, in contrast, a vibrant jazz piano concerto with tight orchestral interlocks. Later, his very romantic arrangement of Irving Berlin's "Always" was cinematic in the best sense, avoiding a misty Mancini effect.

Callaway and Nero demonstrated a genuine rapport, and got some benign shtick in about sour love affairs. Callaway did a cloying impersonation of Billie Holiday, but was dead on as Sarah Vaughan. She was the basso belter on "Blues in the Night," her very stylized blues showpiece from the musical Swing!, and also sang "I Dreamed of You," a song she wrote for Barbra Streisand that was very well-suited to her voice.

Callaway's show diva mode was very entertaining, but sometimes threatened to eclipse her skill at subtle phrasing, especially on jazz standards. Her expressive voice was used inventively on an array of standards, from a samba version of "The Man I Love," with soprano scat riffs off Nero's interludes, to her soulful phrasing on "What Is This Thing Called Love?" The singer was the serene chanteuse on standards like "With a Song in My Heart," "Let's Fall in Love" and "Over the Rainbow."

A personal moment came when she dedicated a song to New York cabaret singer Mary Cleere Haran. It later became apparent just how sad that must have been for Callaway, because. Halan had died from wounds sustained from a bike accident in Florida that same day.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at Central Park SummerStage Live Reviews
Donny McCaslin Group / Ensemble LPR: Symphonic Bowie at...
by Kurt Gottschalk
Published: June 19, 2018
Read Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: June 13, 2018
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
Read Michelle Lordi at Philadelphia Museum of Art Live Reviews
Michelle Lordi at Philadelphia Museum of Art
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: June 10, 2018
Read Andy Hague Quintet at The Bronx Bar Live Reviews
Andy Hague Quintet at The Bronx Bar
by Barry Witherden
Published: June 10, 2018
Read Atlanta Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Atlanta Jazz Festival 2018
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 9, 2018
Read "Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook" Live Reviews Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 29, 2017
Read "Lisa Bjorange at Bullret Jazz Club" Live Reviews Lisa Bjorange at Bullret Jazz Club
by Patrick Burnette
Published: February 2, 2018
Read "Pat Martino Quintet at Chris' Jazz Cafe" Live Reviews Pat Martino Quintet at Chris' Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 26, 2017
Read ""A Love Supreme" with Ravi Coltrane" Live Reviews "A Love Supreme" with Ravi Coltrane
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: October 6, 2017
Read "Redwood City Salsa Festival 2017" Live Reviews Redwood City Salsa Festival 2017
by Walter Atkins
Published: October 17, 2017