Imagine a journey which takes you to the deepest back woods Juke Joint just west of the Mississippi. This is a venue that breathes and exhales the very essence of Jazz. What a Spiritual Haven and fortress from a hot summer day in L.A.
The elegant affair was dripping in the Blues, Soul, and Jazz. During this expedition you are serenaded by an angelic voice. Throughout the afternoon this angel’s halo was often tilted…just a tad, depending on the mood of the tune. She performed with sass, brass, and fervor. She is known as that "St. Louis Woman", the One and Only Denise Thimes.
Accompanying Ms. Thimes was a trio of perceptive musicians -
Kenny Dennis - Drums
Danny Mixon - Piano
Ricky Woodward - Tenor Sax
Mike Gurrola - Bass
One might say, "Ah, there are no Juke Joints in California".
I found a place that negates this thinking, nestled in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, CA.
On July 21, 2013, Betty Hoover, Hostess of the incomparable "Jazz at the a Frame" celebrated its 13th Anniversary as a venue bringing Artists, Aficionadas and Aficionados together for a monthly excursion in unadulterated Bliss.
The quartet kicked off our adventure with Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar”. Everything was in the pocket, with a nice trade of 8's between individual musicians and Mr. Dennis on Drums added a chemistry made in heaven was expressed by these wonderful musicians. Ms. Thimes made her entry with a Louis Armstrong favorite of "Hello Dolly". It was an affectionate, customized rendition for the queen of "Jazz at the A Frame", Betty Hoover with a lyric as "Hello Betty...You're looking Swell, Betty". It was impeccable and Beautiful.
Mr. Woodard and his colloquial horn added gorgeous phrasing and comments. Mr. Mixon teased us on piano with incomparable nuances of joy. While Mr. Dennis was ardently attentive to every pulse like a fervent heart beat sharing nice licks fitting like as a pair of gloves on chilly day. Mr. .Gurrola brought in the bottom with a precision that was pleasing and magical.
Kurt Weill's "My Ship" was refined and warm touches the souls of all present. Denise offered this splendid Ballad with her own beautiful phrasing.
Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose" was inviting and innovative introduced by Mike on Bass. The song was kicking, swinging, and grooving all at the same time with Ms. Thimes glorious sense of timing, phrasing, and voicing. Ricky and his soulful horn shared another unforgettable solo leaving the crowd speechless.
One of my favorite Ballads and an endearing piece by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer "Skylark" was shared almost sacredly. It was too intimate and exquisite to imagine. Ms. Thimes expressed a touch of the unadulterated Blues with her magnificent voice coupled with immaculate entrance at the bridge of the song after Mr. Woodard's tender solo.
"What a Difference a Day Made" was originally composed in Spanish by Maria Grever in 1934 "Cuando Vuelva A Tu Lado". ("When I Return To Your Side"). The legendary piece is also known as, "What a Difference a Day Makes". It has been performed by many musicians and vocalists, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, in 1934, Andy Russell in 1944, Ben E. King, in 1962, and Natalie Cole in 1996.
Perhaps, one of the most enchanting interpretations is that performed by Dinah Washington, who received a Grammy Award in 1959 for her unforgettable rendition in the category of Best Rhythm and Blues Performance.
Now we have a stunning execution of this treasure shared by Denise with a melodious and harmonically elegant solo by Mr. Mixon on piano, completing his fragrant statement with a cadenza in the upper octave of the scale of the key signature. What an incredibly beautiful statement, and WHAT an immensely pleasing imparting vocally.
Denise is always a sensitive musician, interacting with the rhythm section and the audience with love, for all present and reverence for the music. One could hear a pin drop during this time of cherished and private, yet collective consumption of memorable selections of music.
The artist possesses a wisdom and intuitive consciousness that is magnetic. Ms. Thimes is a jewel. As all musicians accompanying her are rare jewels that illuminate their own individual charm and essence.
A rare and interesting tune, by Joe Ricardel and Redd Evans -"Frim, Fram Sauce" provided lots of fun and of course swing. Ms. Thimes made this Nat King Cole favorite her own and threw away the stamp, while Danny on piano teased us with a solo filled with playful quotes from nursery rhymes, classical components, and nice chord progressions.
Kenny on Drums mixed in his take on the "sauce" as well giving the gift of insatiable groove. Mike joined the train with a deliberated solo that brought a knowingly smile for rhythm section members and the audience as well.
Ms. Thimes had the very artistic Ms. Wendy Barnes join her on George Gershwin's "Summertime". The result was a dynamite duo of SWING personified. Do I hear, feel, and experience Scatting to the zenith degree??
Ricky provided us with a solo to remember. It was Spiritual, Bluesy, Jazzy, and all-encompassing of the essence of music connection.
Ms. Thimes' finale was a poignant rendition of Alan Brandt and Bob Haymes, "That's All". I don't believe I can find the right words to articulate this gift that came from Denise's heart, soul, deepest inner being and out of her vocal chords. I'll say this, it was brilliant and of the purest quality of splendor and love.
I'd like to share, a heartfelt appreciation to Ms. Denise Thimes and the incredible quartet of musicians for sharing your gift.
A fitting tribute to our beautiful and gracious Founder & Innovator of "Jazz At the A Frame - Ms. Betty Hoover.
Congratulations on 13 years of providing all Jazz music lovers with a venue that is a Jazz sanctuary! This was an evening that will be treasured forever.