Terry Klinefelter Instrumental and Vocal Ensemble: Philadelphia Songbook Vol. 2


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Terry Klinefelter Instrumental and Vocal Ensemble
Philadelphia Songbook Vol.2 American Philosophical Society
Philadelphia, PA
September 10, 2015

At the outset of a busy weekend of jazz events in Philadelphia, this concert directed by versatile pianist- composer-arranger Terry Klinefelter was an amalgam of two musical genres: straight-ahead mainstream jazz and rhythm-and-blues, with the instrumentalists emphasizing the former style and the vocalists the latter, in sets of standards, many of which were originally written and performed by legendary Philadelphians. Held in the large hall of the American Philosophical Society on Chestnut Street, it was unusual to see the panoply of jazz instruments and amplifiers on a stage more typically reserved for scientific meetings and classical chamber music concerts. Philadelphia Jazz Project director Homer Jackson introduced the show, mentioning that one of his intentions was to make such hallowed Philadelphia institutions available for jazz performances.

The set began with an instrumental: Gerry Mulligan's "Walkin' Shoes," which featured a fine horn arrangement for alto and baritone saxophones, trumpet, and trombone. Bob Meashey's trumpet solo especially captured the "cool West Coast" idiom of which Mulligan was a major proponent. The rhythm section swung beautifully through this tune. Vocalists V. Shayne Frederick, Tara Middleton, and Milton Suggs then came on for three Jobim songs: "Desafinado," "Dindi," and "Girl from Ipanema," all of which were made famous by saxophonist Stan Getz who was born in West Philadelphia, and Astrud Gilberto, who eventually made Philadelphia her home. The shining light among the singers was Frederick, a young man who has been making waves in the Philadelphia area recently. He has a remarkable range from the bass register all the way up to countertenor. His interpretations are carefully crafted around the meaning of the words and the structure of the melody. Frederick is definitely "one to watch." With a little more polish and self-confidence, he could achieve fame. If you can imagine a singer who embodies the sounds of Johnny Mathis, Billy Eckstine, and Arthur Prysock all in one voice, it will give you a good idea of what he can do.

Suggs followed up with a rousing version of Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'" which also featured some great horn solos and a Timmons-like piano solo by Terry Klinefelter. The rendition captured the flavor of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, which popularized the tune at the time when it consisted of Timmons, as well as other Philadelphia musicians: trumpeter Lee Morgan, saxophonist Benny Golson, and bassist Jymie Merritt. Another Philadelphian, McCoy Tyner was honored by his standard, "Rotunda." Again, the rhythm section shone as it manifested the relentless energy and density that typifies Tyner's playing. Frederick then came back and took on the piano and vocal chores for a sensitive version of John Legend's "Ordinary People."

The set concluded with the addition of vocal director Saudah Al-Akbar to the contingent, with an arrangement of "Night in Tunisia" that she did with the great Bobby McFerrin. In addition to vocalese renditions, Nick Lombardelli provided a solid trombone solo, and Byron Landham's astounding drum solo using tympani sticks to hammer the point home was one for the record books.

Two critical points must be made about what was otherwise a very moving performance. First, each song, with the exception of "Moanin'" was too short to allow for extended solos by the instrumentalists, which created a feeling of sensory deprivation, wanting to hear much more from each of them. Second, the R&B and mainstream jazz styles did not mesh too well, possibly because the vocalists and musicians may have been separately rehearsed. To blend musical styles effectively, musicians must frequently gig with each other. Unfortunately, that's not always possible.

Set List: Walkin' Shoes; Antonio Carlos Jobim Mashup: Deafinado, Dindi, Girl from Ipanema; Moanin'; Rotunda; Ordinary People; A Night in Tunisia.

Personnel: Terry Klinefelter: music director, piano, electric piano; Saudah Al Akbar: vocal director and vocalist; V. Shane Frederick: vocalist; Tara Middleton: vocalist; Milton Suggs: vocalist; Matthew Clayton: alto saxophone; Tim Price: tenor saxophone, flute, baritone saxophone; Bob Meashey: trumpet; Nick Lombardelli: trombone; Dan Hanrahan: acoustic and electric guitar; Paul Klinefelter: double bass; Christian Klinefelter: bass guitar; Ron Howerton: percussion; Byron Landham: drums.

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