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The Tom & Jamie Show at the College Street Congregational Church

Doug Collette By

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The Tom & Jamie Show
College Street Congregational Church
Burlington, VT
March 25, 2017

Anyone who attended the Chick Corea / Bela Fleck concert at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival in 2007 had to feel some measure of deja vu as The Tom & Jamie Show commenced at the College St Congregational Church Saturday evening March 25th. Not that this performance was anywhere near as intense, but it was scintillating in its own relaxed way because the chemistry between pianist Tom Cleary and mandolinist Jamie Masefield lent itself to one quietly sublime moment after another.

On its own terms, the presentation was indicative of the ever-expanding reach into the community by the iconic venue Nectar's. But this concert was equally if not more significant as yet another demonstration of the stalwart loyalty these two Vermont musicians have afforded the Burlington music scene over the years (over and above collaborations with various members of Phish!),

Despite introductions of virtually every selection, the startling range of styles in their song choices only became apparent once the ninety minutes-plus show concluded. From the opener, "Beatrice" by Sam Rivers, the duo proceeded through originals like pianist Cleary's "Sweet Sarah Blue" and his ghostly arrangement of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" to a jazz favorite of Masefield's in the form of "Days of Wine & Roses" and his own composition "Stiles," which, rendered with such fleet grace, vividly recalled the halcyon days of The Jazz Mandolin Project.

Cleary and Masefield oftentimes played like alter egos of each other this evening and never more so than on the set closer proper, Oregon co-founder Ralph Towner's "Joyful Departure." But their instrumental exchanges, alternately gentle and playful, allowed for each man's own personality as a musician come through, even during the bittersweet air they conjured up with that tune, which the two then extended by offering an encore of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows."

The formality that no doubt derives in part from Cleary's teaching at the University of Vermont finds its foil via the open-ended sense of freedom always implicit in Masefield's playing, no matter how precise he is (and he can be ultra-precise). The beauty of this, the pair' s very first public performance after, as Masefield recounted, knowing each other some two decades, lay in the palpable way both men elicited from the other the respective attributes of their personal styles.

And the most cogent expression of this connection was, oddly, or perhaps not, a rendition of pianist extraordinaire Marcus Roberts' composition for his collaboration with Bela Fleck, with Masefield on banjo, during "I'm Gonna Tell You This One More Time:" after both individual and shared interludes, music blossomed into the air, seemingly in the blink of any eye. To use another more explicit metaphor, once the sparks had flown sufficiently, they caught fire.

The informality of the presentation may have precluded dimming the lights in the church to enhance the drama of the performance, but these two men are too unassuming to think much less act along those lines. Likewise, they are sufficiently generous of spirit to allow Cleary's spouse Amber DeLaurentis to perform as a guest vocalist at two turns: while her take on a Jennifer Warnes/Leonard Cohen number was a fairly effective change of pace, the loosely upbeat approach she applied to "Ain't She Sweet" was unquestionably crowd-pleasing but jarring nonetheless, out of place in a time and place where an intimate and subdued spirit otherwise dominated the inclusive proceedings.

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