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International jazz in more ways than one

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The excellent and versatile Orlando-based drummer Eddie Metz Jr. brought his International Jazz Trio to Port Charlotte on Monday, January 11 for a concert with more foreign tinges than just the trio's membership.

The band consists of Metz, Australian-born bassist and singer Nicki Parrott, and Italian-born pianist Rossano Sportiello. Metz tends to get top billing on Florida tours because he lives here, but it really is a trio of equals. All three players contribute mightily to the group's dynamic sound and tune selection.

This was the band's third visit in five seasons to the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert series. These musicians always seem to unearth more little-heard gems and swing the heck out of them with their playful camaraderie and astonishing technique.

In addition to some standard fare from the jazz canon and the Great American Songbook, the evening also touched on some decidedly foreign material in terms of composers or inspirations. That added Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Poland to the intriguing concert mix.

They opened with London-born pianist George Shearing's composition “She" before showcasing Sportiello on two Ellington-related tunes: “The Sunset and the Mockingbird" (from Duke's “The Queen's Suite") and Mercer Ellington's little-heard “John Hardy's Wife."

Other Sportiello gems included his take on Erroll Garner's “Misty" and a classical fantasie in which Italian-born composer Domenico Scarlatti's “Sonata in A major" segued seamlessly into Shearing's “Lullaby of Birdland." The classically trained pianist also shared Bach's “Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and his customary Chopin medley, the latter as the concert closer.

Parrott's charming vocals and creative bass playing are always a crowd pleaser. Her vocal features included the Dinah Washington hit “What a Difference a Day Made," “It's a Good Day," English composer Ray Noble's “The Very Thought of You" (sung in tribute to the late Natalie Cole), “La Vie en Rose" and her concert staple, the Peggy Lee hit “Fever." Her vocals also shined on the band's version of the Ray Charles R&B hit “Hallelujah, I Just Love Her So" (with Peggy Lee's “love him so" lyric variation).

The evening's highlight, in terms of crowd response from the crowd of 350+, was a Sportiello solo piano segment that opened with a delicate exploration of “I Wish You Love." It sequed into several tunes from the Austria-based “The Sound of Music" soundtrack. After “Edelweiss," Metz and Parrott joined in for most of the exuberant final section, “Climb Every Mountain."

Metz's drum wizardry was showcased on “Shoe Shine Boy," a Sammy Cahn-Saul Chaplin tune from the Count Basie songbook. In 1982, Metz spent six months as the drummer in the Basie band while he was still in college at William Paterson College. There's nothing like starting your career with the best. Decades later, Metz is still working with the best- and is one of Florida's most in-demand jazz drummers.

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This story appears courtesy of Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes.
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