Jazz Event Celebrates Swingin' 25th Anniversary
BY MARY ELLE HUNTER
Special to The Pilot
A sell-out crowd packed the Cardinal Ballroom of the Carolina Hotel Valentine's Day weekend for a traditional weekend of jazz and to support the Arts Council of Moore County.
Co-chaired by Jan Schnell and Scott and Sonja Brewton, the 25th annual Heart 'n Soul of Jazz celebration brought to the Sandhills a pair of exciting jazz groups who have played at venues and festivals across the country and abroad.
On Friday night, tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and vibraphonist Joe Locke combined their particular talents with Nilson Matta's Brazilian Voyage for an awesome evening blending familiar standards with South American jazz. Harry Allen noted that he and Locke brought their New York-New Jersey sound to complement the artistry of the Brazilian musicians, comprised of Matta on bass, Duduka da Fonseca on drums and pianist Helio Alves with Maucha Adnet adding the vocals.
The opener for this multi-cultural jazz experience was Harry Allen's composition "Dreamer," followed by Matta's "Parachi," a simple melody which soon exploded into intense riffs by individual members of the group. Allen's masterful tenor sax provided just the right throaty resonance, while Locke alternated a two and four mallet technique with a swinging flair that merged dexterity with impeccable musicianship.
A flashy adaptation of Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are" and a plaintive version of Kermit the Frog's "Bein' Green" demonstrated the full scale of American jazz interpretations. Then Maucha Adnet joined the group to deliver several numbers by Antonio Carlos Jobim, including "Morning at Carnival" and "Desafinado." The velvety quality of her voice as it wove in and out through Allen's excellent sax was a fantastic jazz highlight.
Nilson Matta introduced his fellow Brazilian players by quipping, "Yes, we have our green cards and are paying taxes," before giving the audience a wonderful sample of South American jazz. Matta made his bass sing, while Duduka da Fonseca on drums exhibited passionate energy and pianist Helio Alves confronted the keyboard in dynamic style. The finale of the first night, a rendition of the Jobim classic, "The Waters of March," brought the audience to its feet.
The Tierney Sutton Band was a logical choice to observe the milestone of Heart 'n Soul of Jazz on Saturday. According to co-chair Jan Schnell, ever since her first appearance three years ago, local jazz aficionados have pressed for a return engagement by Sutton and her trio.
The group has been together for 18 years, and has three Grammy award nominations to its credit, the latest one being for its 2009 album, "Desire." Sutton blends her talents effortlessly with her three band members - pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker.
Called a "pure jazz spirit who respects a song," reviewers have said of Sutton that, "Even when going out on an improvisatory limb, she never lets the song's essence slip away." And that was certainly the case when she graced the Cardinal Ballroom in front of a sparkling silver and black backdrop for the second concert of the weekend.
After an opener of the old favorite "What'll I Do?" Sutton announced that the evening's program wouldn't include "My Funny Valentine" even though it was Valentine's Eve. Instead she brought lots of romance and new approaches to the usual jazz standards.
Holding nothing back when an arrangement calls for some out-and-out swinging, Sutton's rhythmic impulses are flawless. The accompanying instrumentation with pianist Christian Jacob supplying bold and daring interludes, and the rhythm section finding ways to stand out during solo spots, provide a perfect working combination.
Her varied program ranged from a sizzling version of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" with an up-tempo beat, to the silky ballads of "Heart's Desire" and "Emily." Other selections that kept the enthusiastic applause coming included "It's All Right With Me," "The Lady is a Tramp," and "Ding Dong The Witch is Dead." Once again, the crowd rose to its feet for a standing ovation at the end of the evening, and was treated to an encore of "Never Let Me Go."
An added attraction to the Heart 'n Soul of Jazz weekend was the appearance of John Proulx, a West Coast jazz pianist, vocalist and composer, who opened the festivities on Friday evening. His refreshing and intricate stylings of jazz classics were appreciated by the gathering audience before co-chair Jan Schnell welcomed the guests and gave thanks to the primary sponsors - Pinehurst Resort, Progress Energy and American Airlines, and to contributing sponsors, BB&T, Wachovia and Lyne's Furniture Gallery.
Contact Pinehurst freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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