An All-Star Evening Of Exuberant Swing

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Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon headlined an evening of exuberant swing Monday night at the Venice FL Performing Arts Center and their all-star band delivered the goods.

The horn players were joined by the terrific rhythm section of Eddie Metz Jr. (drums), Nicki Parrott (bass and vocals) and Rosanno Sportiello (piano), plus special guest Stephanie Nakasian on vocals.

Gordon shifted with ease between trombone, gritty vocals and slide trumpet throughout the night in this, his first appearance at a concert by the South County Jazz Club, which co-produced the event with the Venice Institute for Performing Arts.

Allen is a premiere ambassador of mainstream swing tenor sax. His finest moment was sharing a beautiful original ballad," Old Joe," which he later said was inspired by reading a short story. Allen has evolved into a fine composer as well as interpreter of jazz standards and Brazilian jazz.

Highlights:

  • Parrott's vocal feature on the Ella Fitzgerald signature tune “You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)."
  • Gordon's growling take on Fats Waller's “Honeysuckle Rose," enhanced by Sportiello's stride piano mastery.
  • With muted trombone and bass, Gordon and Parrott turned “Squeeze Me" into a clever vocal and instrumental duet.
  • Nakasian closed the first set leading a rousing version of the Helen Humes blues “Million Dollar Secret." Gordon supported with growling trombone solos and Nakasian responded with her uncanny vocal trombone emulation as they traded four-bar phrases.
  • The band touched on the Duke Ellington songbook with “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" and “Cottontail" to open the second half of the concert.
  • Nakasian joined the band again for the final three tunes, “Skylark," “How High the Moon" and “On the Sunny Side of the Street." On that finale, she teamed up with Parrott for a vocal duet that segued into a bass duet, with Nakasian craftily emulating an upright bass sound. It was well done and effective, much like her vocal trombone.
  • Pretty much every concert by Metz becomes a drum clinic because of his mastery of the instrument, creative technique and joyous support of the other musicians. This was no exception.

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This story appears courtesy of Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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