Updating a classic format

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Trumpeter Dan Miller and tenor saxophonist Lew Del Gatto usually perform in a quartet format at their weekly Thursday night gigs at The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in downtown Fort Myers, FL. But the bandstand was a bit more crowded on Thursday, February 28. Delightfully so.

Besides regular drummer Tony Vigilante and St. Petersburg bassist Joe Porter, subbing for a couple of weeks for Brandon Robertson, they were joined by tenor saxophonist Gerald Augustin and alto saxophonist Bob Bowlby, a Boston music scene mainstay who is in the area visiting family.

On most tunes, as is standard in jazz, each member of the band takes a solo that stretches the music in varied ways, before they all join back in for the wrap up. That happened on most numbers this night. But the four-man horn line, enabled Miller to change things up near the end of the first set.

The band treated the crowd to a ballad medley. With Porter and Vigilante keeping the steady, swinging time, Del Gatto dug into a straight melodic reading of “You Don't Know What Loves Is." Without skipping a beat, Bowlby offered his take on “Angel Eyes." That segued into Fort Myers native Augustin's more modern take on Duke Ellington's “Sophisticated Lady." Miller brought it home with his trumpet on “Tenderly."

It was a fine ballad relay between the four players, celebrating each tune's melodic essence without a lot of improvisational fanfare. Impresario Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic tours from 1944 to 1957 used the ballad medley to great effect during its all-start concerts. It was great to hear Miller & Co. extend the tradition with excellence- and without fanfare.

Other evening treats included the band's explorations of Thelonious Monk's “Bright Mississippi," Ray Noble's hard-driving romp “Cherokee" and “On The Trail" from composer Ferde Grofe's “Grand Canyon Suite."

This evening wrapped up three straight evenings of Bowlby sitting in with one band or another during his latest Florida sojourn. It was also his first opportunity to play with 25-year Saturday Night Live Band alumnus Del Gatto.

Bowlby spent several years playing lead alto in the Buddy Rich Band and has more recently toured with the Buddy Rich Alumni Band. He's a Boston Pops regular and can be found in the pit for just about every touring musical that stops in Beantown. Florida musicians in the know look forward to his visits.

Y'all come back now, hear?

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