Take It from the Top

Forrest Bryant By

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In the past, this column has been... let's say 'occasional'; yes, that's a nice, polite word.

Happy New Year! A new calendar calls for new beginnings, of course, and Bay Boppin' is no exception to the rule. In the past, this column has been—not sporadic—let's say occasional; yes, that's a nice, polite word. And focused. That's a much better word than 'limited' or 'narrow' or 'slavishly devoted to reviewing SFJAZZ concerts.' But no more. The Bay Area jazz scene merits a lot more than that, and here at All About Jazz we're committed to seeing that justice is served. So from this point on, new Bay Boppin' columns will appear at least twice a month, with news and opinion from all corners of the local jazz world.


Why the sudden burst of vigor from this sleepy little corner of AAJ? It's all part of the preparation for a new project, which should debut this spring. See the New York and Philadelphia sections of All About Jazz for a pretty obvious hint, or just be patient. An official announcement will be appearing in this space soon . . .


I don't know if it counts as our best-kept secret, but certainly the recurring Bay Area jazz event most deserving of wider recognition is Yoshi's family-friendly Sunday matinee. Yoshi's is an all-ages venue at all times (didn't know that, did you?), but with late show times and jazz club prices it's hard to take the kids along to hear the music. Thus the matinees. Every Sunday, Yoshi's offers a special afternoon set at bargain prices for kids (and their chaperones). It's a great way to introduce the young'uns to some of the best performers of our time, for which they will surely thank you some day.

Take the goings-on of January 5, for example, when the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars put on a riotously funny show (and showed off some serious chops) in front of a packed house. Trumpeter and professional Dizzy-channeler Jon Faddis set the tone, for better or worse, by announcing after one tune that he was buying a round of ice cream for every child under age ten. Having thus made several dozen instant fans (while giving heart attacks to the staff), he swung the sextet into a calypso groove with an interactive version of "Poor Joe," featuring a tasty solo from the redoubtable James Moody on flute and a too-cute-for-words duet between Faddis and a youngster in the front row.

A more standard jazz experience was provided in the high-velocity warhorse,"Salt Peanuts." Pianist Billy Childs provided a quicksilver torrent of notes that dovetailed well with Faddis' stratospheric blasts and balanced the thicker butter 'n' molasses tones of Slide Hampton's trombone. Hampton, quietly chewing gum between his liquid solos, was a crowd favorite. Quoting liberally from Prokofiev, Ravel, and The Flintstones, Slide gave the tots a mini-clinic on circular breathing. Drummer Dennis Mackrel, meanwhile, was laying down some lessons of his own on the art of soloing within the groove.

The classic song, "Moody's Mood For Love," is a treat on record. Live, it's infinitely better. Moody's tricky vocalese and froggy falsetto singing were irresistible, and a surprise rap section at the end kept everyone on their toes. But the set's musical highlight was, not surprisingly, "A Night in Tunisia." Tight interplay and strong solos all around kept the old chestnut sounding fresh, with bassist John Lee setting a suitably exotic pattern and Moody turning in his best sax work of the day in a straight-up swinging mode. Faddis and Hampton then steamed their way into a prolonged outro section of squeals and classical references. The three horn players transformed themselves into an impressive scat trio for the set's closer, "Oop-Pop-A-Da." It was an afternoon of pure, silly fun, and yes, the kids did indeed get their ice cream: vanilla, chocolate, and green tea.

In addition to the bargain matinees, Yoshi's has slashed ticket prices in half for some 10pm shows. For more information on all of Yoshi's upcoming performances, check out their web site at www.yoshis.com


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