The Downeast Jazz Trio featuring Ann Delaney H.D. Moore Library and Community Center Jazz & Dessert Gala Steuben, ME June 20, 2015
The only thing edgy about the experience of hearing live jazz in Steuben, ME was the sugar rush I got from greedily sampling four desserts from an impressive array of homemade concoctions at the Jazz & Dessert Gala, prior to the start of an hour plus set. In contrast to witnessing and enduring various forms of boorish behavior on the part of club owners, restaurateurs (I recently heard a manager address a world class player, as "Hey, you! Girl guitarist!"), bartenders and waiters in places where jazz is frequently performed, the H.D. Moore Library and Community Center is an island of civility. Upon entering the lobby, we were enthusiastically greeted by a couple of the concert's organizers, admired a striking quilt that was being raffled off on the Fourth of July (bought a ticketfingers crossed!), and made a contribution to the donation jar in lieu of an admission fee.
Led by electric pianist Frank Fredenburgh, The Downeast Jazz Trio featuring vocalist Ann Delaney was a fitting choice for the evening's entertainment. Great American Songbook favorites and jazz standards played and sung with uniformly high standards extended the Center's casual, welcoming atmosphere to the bandstand and performance. In part due to Fredenburgh's and Delaney's comments between selections, ranging from a brief demonstration of the juxtaposition of two potentially unharmonious chords at the onset of "Black Coffee," to an appreciation of Johnny Hartman's and John Coltrane's version of "I Thought About You," the usual boundaries between performers and audience were virtually non-existent. After one selection, Fredenburgh's spouse casually walked to the front of the stage and advised him that the piano wasn't projecting to the rear of the room.
Delaney, a recent addition to the group, made a positive impression by employing smooth, behind the beat phrasing, flowing over the trio's knowing, sensitive support; subtle changes in dynamics; taking care in delivering the lyrics of each song; and a decided lack of theatrics. Each of these characteristics was evident on the set's opener, "I Remember You." Throughout "Beautiful Love" her voice glided over the band's firm pocket. Following bassist Frank Gallagher's solo, Delaney offered a lively chorus of scat before returning to the lyric of "Blue Skies."
Fredenburgh distinguished himself by proffering respectful, sophisticated interpretations of the material, sensitive accompaniment to Delaney's vocals, as well as relatively short, meaty solos. His "Black Coffee" improvisation included a host of skittering runs on the high end of the keyboard, some deliberate figures redolent of the blues, and brief stabling interpolations executed by his right hand. One of the set's highlights was an inspired interpretation of "Moon River." Taking the song at a nice, languid ballad tempo, Fredenburgh left silences between phrases, allowed some single notes to ring out, and inserted a long, bubbly run. At one point, someone a few chairs away softly hummed the tune in unison with the pianist.
Gallagher and drummer Andrew Clifford provided an ideal foundation and proved to be capable soloists. Evincing a full, slightly ringing tone, for a time Gallagher discretely powered the medium tempo swing of "Beautiful Love" without always playing on all four beats of a measure. In addition to keeping solid time, Clifford was concerned with texture, offering rim knocks, tamped strokes to the snare with the snares off, and spritely cymbal rhythms tailored to the melody of "Armando's Rhumba." His solo feature on "Duke's Place (C-Jam Blues)" was mostly played in time. While steadily working the ride cymbal, he executed brusque, shifting combinations between the bass and snare drums, moved to a litany of Latin-oriented rhythms and, during one brief sequence, made his two top cymbals sound out like chimes.
Toward the end of the concert, Fredenburgh announced that the group was playing at the Center's Yard Sale in July. Later on in the summer he will celebrate his fifty-second wedding anniversary with a pot luck supper and concert including some special guests. Resisting a generous offer to take home some leftover dessert, we left the hall talking about the music and our good fortune in discovering a place where artists and community are mutually supportive.
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