Southport Knows the True Value of a Veteran Jazzman

Jim Santella By

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Southport Records, long a Chicago stalwart, keeps the ball rolling with these two veteran artists. Both have worked in many genres, and both issue great, straight-ahead jazz for a broad audience.

Bobby Schiff
Late Game

Bobby Schiff works with his veteran trio to interpret familiar standards and several originals. He adds strings for four numbers, while the final selection from the program is performed solo. The pianist's natural form of communication includes lush harmony, delicate cascades, and a gentle demeanor. By including several bossa novas in his program, he reveals a love for the peaceful side of modern jazz.

A veteran of 35 years in jazz performance and composition, Schiff's debut as a leader is long overdue. His piano influences, obvious in his presentation, include Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, and Gene Harris. He interprets with a light, swinging spirit; but does so with soul.

Schiff's Wonder Bop drives with an intense feeling that takes the trio through a garden of straight-ahead delights. The ingredients are all there: solos around the room, syncopation in a swinging ensemble romp, and a light-hearted melody that bounces enthusiastically.

The leader's Late Game, subtitled "Sketch of Reflection, adds strings in a melancholy affair driven by the piano's cascading piano. Schiff articulates with delicate keyboard phrases that overlap seamlessly through a film noir scene whose impression leaves a wide wake.

With his varied program of sensible ballads, pleasant bossa novas, and driving, straight-ahead romps, pianist Schiff covers plenty of modern jazz territory. He's had many years to develop his individual voice, which comes to us comfortably from an experienced hand. Schiff communicates with his audience intuitively, giving you the feeling that you're there in the studio with him, strolling the aisles leisurely and quite at ease.

Bobby Lewis
Instant Groove

With his seventh recording as leader (all for Southport Records), veteran trumpeter Bobby Lewis has put together an eclectic array of originals and familiar modern jazz pieces that represent his 40-plus years in the field. Most of the arrangements feature his ensemble in a rollicking spirit that grooves hard. He balances that assertive spirit with several ballad pieces that lie casual and laid-back.

Lewis' career has consistently explored jazz from all angles. He created a trad jazz band called Muggles that interprets the music of Louis Armstrong. His trumpet ensemble, The Forefront, has toured the world to interpret jazz with a unique flair. He created and co-leads a creative jazz septet, Ears · Jazz of all Eras, and a mainstream jazz quintet, Rhythmakers.

Saxophonist Pat Mallinger, who sits in for seven of the album's twelve selections, provides a terrific featured voice that gels cohesively with Lewis' trumpet and flugelhorn. Similarly, pianist Jim Ryan adds considerable depth to the program and solos conspicuously with stellar results. The session contains pitch problems in places, however, that find the leader out of sync with his crew. His lower register on flugelhorn, particularly on "The Shining Sea and "Edda, comes laden with unwelcome dissonances that are unintentional and out of place.

Clare Fischer's "Morning works best for the trumpeter, as his septet strolls leisurely in a Latin mood with the familiar melody soaring up high. Curtis Robinson's guitar adds a down-home blues feeling, as electric bass and percussion surround the front line with a powerful groove. Hot solos flow from tenor, piano and guitar. Lewis' bright trumpet brings a glad feeling to the day and showers the room with a loose cannonade of melody.

Other selections, such as "Two for the Road and "Line for Lyons, work very well. Lewis displays a heartfelt demeanor on ballads and a spirited groove on up-tempo romps. His arrangement of Jelly Roll Morton's "Grandpa's Spells provides an entertaining departure from the modern jazz norm, as Lewis' cornet spins a trad jazz melody over crisp snare drum handiwork, a solid tuba rhythmic foundation, and alto trumpet harmony. The leader's versatile programming has enabled him to span generations of jazz lovers with his eclectic scenario.

Tracks and Personnel

Late Game

Track Listing: Zingaro; I'm Old Fashioned; Skating in Central Park; Wonder Bop; Por Toda a Minha Vida; Baubles Bangles & Beads; Late Game; Mode to Bud; Agnus Dei; Blue in Green; Last Night When We Were Young.

Personnel: Bobby Schiff: piano; Stewart Miller: bass; Chuck Christiansen: drums; Paulinho Garcia: guitar; Geraldo De Oliveira: percussion; Katherine Hughes, Mark Agnor, Jeff Yang, Paul Zafer, Carmen Kassinger, Steve Winkler: violin; Loretta Gillespie, Betty Lewis: viola; Jill Kaeding, Richard Yeo: cello.

Instant Groove

Track Listing: The New Delhi Deli; The Shining Sea; Edda; Dreamsville; Morning; Sauce Melba; Line for Lyons; Two for the Road; Grandpa's Spells; Saudade ¡¡; Together We'll Stay; The Evening Star.

Personnel: Bobby Lewis: trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet, alto trumpet; Dan Perantoni: tuba; Pat Mallinger: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Burl Lane: bassoon, tenor saxophone; Curtis Robinson: guitar; Jim Ryan: piano, synthesizer; Rob Amster, Rob Kassinger, Thomas Kini: bass; Jeff Stitely: drums; Alejo Poveda: percussion.

Visit Bobby Schiff and Bobby Lewis on the web.


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