Jazz Event Well-Received by Crowd
An exceptionally enthusiastic crowd of jazz lovers packed the Cardinal Ballroom of The Carolina Hotel on the Valentine's Day weekend, and gave a significant funding boost to the programs of the Arts Council of Moore County. Co-chaired by Jan Schnell and Scott and Sanja Brewton, the 23rd annual Heart 'n' Soul of Jazz celebration (formerly called Jazz 'n January) delighted the audiences with an appealing mix of jazz styles.
The weekend might be described as an abbreviated course in Jazz 101. From the beginnings of jazz in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s to jazz as up-to-the-minute as tomorrow morning's headlines, jazz aficionados benefited from a delightful comparison of jazz modes that kept them toe tapping, humming, and clapping.
On Friday night, Butch Thompson's Big Four turned the clock back and brought the audience the best of traditional jazz. Led by Thompson, on piano, who entertained the audience between numbers with a laid-back sense of humor, the Big Four included Duke Heitger on trumpet, Hal Smith on drums, and the inimitable Jimmy Mazza on banjo and handling the vocals.
Playing such standards as "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Body and Soul" and "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" in classic jazz style, the Big Four also had a few surprises in store -- like the Jelly Roll Morton version of "Tiger Rag," in which Thompson used his elbow in the bass register to create a special effect. Or the droll vocalizing of Jimmy Mazza on an old J. L. Handy tune, "Make Me A Pallet On The Floor." Butch Thompson, who plays a mean clarinet as well as piano, teamed with trumpeter Duke Heitger on a famous Duke Ellington arrangement of "Mood Indigo."
A contemporary approach to jazz was on tap Saturday night as Sophie Milman, an attractive young woman with an incredible voice, and her talented quartet, took the stage. The four musicians that complement this hot newcomer to the jazz world are multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Cameron Wallis, together with Paul Shrofel on piano, John Fraboni on drums, Kieran Overs on bass.
Milman delivered updated versions of confirmed classics from the world of jazz, pop and rock with flair and elegance. Sprinkled among her interpretations was a succession of solos by piano, bass and drums, supplemented by Cameron Wallis' flute, clarinet or saxophone that peppered the usual jazz with free-form commentaries turning into full-scale improvisations.
An up-tempo adaptation of "It Might As Well Be Spring" opened her program that included such tunes as "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," a sultry performance of "Fever," and three selections from her newest album. One of them was the poignant "Bein' Green," accompanied by a bass segment bowed rather than strummed by Kieran Overs. Another highlight was a Milman tribute to Oscar Peterson with a moving rendition of "Tenderly."
The major sponsors of the benefit were Pinehurst Resorts, Progress Energy, and American Airlines. The Carolina Hotel presented a lavish display of creative desserts, decorated by sugar sculptures, for the post-concert meet-the-artists reception, sponsored by BB&T and Wachovia. Lyne's Furniture Gallery and Pinehurst Resorts provided the door prizes -- a $1,000 shopping spree at the Gallery, and a weekend at The Sanderling Resort on the Outer Banks.
Contact freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at mhunter104@ yahoo.com.
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