Backed by the sizzle of Bob Kaufman's drums and John Arcaro's springy keys, Toni Ballard started her pre-birthday set with a gently swinging "You Make Me Feel So Young." Inviting recent Berklee graduate Christine Fawson to side her on trumpet, Ballard slipped into the Mercer/Arlen chestnut "Come Rain or Come Shine." Though some of Ballard's vocal nuance was lost in the mics, the groove was there. Ballard's effort to personalize the phrasing of an up-tempo "I Remember You" took it a bit off time, but the hesitations and accelerations added body and emotion. Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You" took the tempo down with Todd Baker's sliding bass and Ballard's rocketing vocals. Fawson then took the mike for an impressively powerful (and authentic) run through "Avalon" complete with scat solos. After a sweep through Rogers and Hart's "Lover," the band clicked into the forthcoming Anita O'Day tribute with a whispery "Early Autumn." "Old Black Magic" had to be explained to the band, but once it clicked in, it brought the set to an end on a well-coordinated and solo-splashed up note.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.