Honoring the creativity and spirit of a key jazz era

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The late 1950s and the 1960s were fertile years in the development of the hard-bop style. That incubation was so dominated by the players of one jazz record label that it has become known as The Blue Note Era because the Blue Note label’s bands and future bandleaders had an indelible impact on modern jazz.

Trumpeter Dan Miller and tenor saxophonist Lew Del Gatto celebrated that style and spirit on Monday, December 10, performing with their rock-solid quintet for the Charlotte County Jazz Society. While Miller has performed at CCJS concerts in the past, this was the first appearance by Del Gatto, pianist John O’Leary, bassist Brandon Robertson and drummer Paul Gavin. Del Gatto spent 25 years in NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” Band and was a first-call New York studio musician for many years.

With finesse and firepower, they dug into the music that mostly originated in the bands of drummer Art Blakey and pianist Horace Silver, but also touched on saxophonists Tina Brooks and Wayne Shorter, and trumpeter Kenny Dorham before ending the generous evening with three classics composed by pianist Herbie Hancock.

The material included Benny Golson’s “Blues March” and “Are You Real?,” and pianist Bobby Timmons’ classic “Moanin’,” first recorded when they were in Blakey’s Jazz Messengers band; Silver’s “Song for My Father,” “Strollin’” and “Peace”; Brooks’ exotic “Gypsy Blue” which first appeared on trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s Open Sesame album; and Dorham’s “Blue Bossa.”

Miller—a high-octane veteran of the Harry Connick Jr., Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson bands and the Wynton Marsalis-led Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra—used keen and sometimes humorous anecdotes to put each song and its composer into context. He described Silver’s “Peace” as one of the most beautiful ballads in jazz, adding that “its message is as important today as when he wrote it.” Del Gatto underscored that notion with a probing and sweet tenor solo.The band also dug into “Lester Left Town,” which Shorter wrote in the wee hours after learning that saxophonist Lester Young had died. The evening closed with Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” which was a mega-hit for Mongo Santamaria, “Maiden Voyage” and “Cantaloupe Island.”

All five players were in synch all night long, whether soloing themselves or comping behind the other soloists. The ensemble playing—and the unexpected accents that Gavin, O’Leary and Robertson added at various moments—added much to this splendid night. It underscored that this hard-bop sound remains vibrant 60 or so years after its incubation.

The concert drew a crowd of nearly 300 to the William H. Wakeman III Theater at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County in Port Charlotte.

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This story appears courtesy of Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes.
Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.

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