The California jazz Foundation hosted a "A Jazz Explosion" on May 4, 2008 at the Local 47, Musicians' Union in Los Angeles. I'd called it a conflagration never before experienced on the planet! 4 sets of music put on by artists on a total Jazz mission.
A fire that would not be contained, spread through the auditorium and over the city with artists' unleashing Succulent Standards, Bare Boned Blues, Sensitive Straight Ahead, Heart-centered Latin Pulsations, and Versatile Vocal Selections.
The Bruce Babad Quartet featuring Bruce Babad on Alto Sax, Larry Koonse on Guitar, Putter Smith on Bass, and Steve Barnes on Drums, John Campbell on Piano ignited the afternoon with Paul Desmond's "Line for Lyons". satisfying, like velvet on listeners' ears. Anyone want to trade 4's or 6's ? Bruce and John do. Mr. Babad's arrangement of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's " My Funny Valentine" was love for the heart, soothing for the soul, water for the thirsty, and food for the hungry. Speaking of love...Bruce performed a gorgeous Waltz that he wrote for his wife, "Jan". Steve Barnes wasn't bashful on his brushwork with the drums accenting Mr. Babad's Alto Sax melody. Bruce continued to enthrall us with a composition he wrote utilizing music notes that correlated with his last name. The tune is entitled, "BABAD". A cool and funky interaction transpired in a call and response between John and Bruce.
What is a tribute to Paul Desmond without the legendary "Take Five" originally performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
The Quartet added their own elegance with stirring bass work by Putter Smith , splendid guitar and accompaniment by Larry Koonse, John Campbell's plush and uninhibited piano playing and Bruce's ever smooth, intuitive and sexy Alto Sax performance. And this...is only the first set of music!
Ramon Banda and his Quintet began with increased intensity. Ramon Banda on Drums, Carlos Cuevas on Piano, Craig Fundya on Vibes, Joey (Joseph) DeLeon on Percussion, and Edwin Livingston on Bass provided the music of Cal Tjader, Theo Saunders, John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, Walter "Gil" Fuller, and Luciano "Chano" Pozo Gonzales.
What a wonderful exchange between the musicians'. It was a delight to watch the astuteness and musicianship connect on the Theo Saunders piece, Lo Down, No Feathers and Cal Tjader's - Philly Mambo. The hauntingly beautiful tune "Tenderly" caressed us all while we swayed in the moment. Carlos kept the room ablaze with his lyrical style sending chills down my spine as his intriguing hands skillfully played.
"Carlito!!!" was shouted by an audience member mimicking my own thoughts for I wanted the shout his name as well!
Ramon turned the heat up with a steady and stirring rhythmic beat causing my heart to leap for joy. Craig continued with sweet and sizzling vibrations and once again the emphatic union with each tune was so very special. Joey was in sync with his untiring pulverizing and Edwin in usual attire saturated the inferno with changes on bass that were enduring.
They completed their journey with the invigorating Dizzy Gillespie piece "Manteca".
The Jazz Explosion not only hosted incomparable music but a luscious spread of salads, main courses, desserts, fine wines and liquor along with soft drinks, water and hot coffee. The harmony amid the audience members and testimonials given by those who have been supported through efforts of the California Jazz Foundation made the event not only fulfilling musically and artistically but altruistically in relationship with community. We truly communed together that magical afternoon.
The best occurred throughout the afternoon with each set bringing its own additional fume as The Billy Valentine Quartet came up to keeping the flames going.
The Quartet consists of Billy Valentine - A Keen and Warm Vocalist.
An equally perceptive Stuart Elster on Piano, An animated Bruce Lett on Bass and remarkable Gary Gibbons on Drums keeping it steady, strutting, and swinging.
They performed a touching arrangement of "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" without the vocalist each musician making his own statement of pleading.
Billy joined the group taking us on a Blues infused passage with Billie Holiday's "Travellin Light", "Everybody Needs Somebody", and "Every day I have the Blues".
"Darn that Dream" drew silent agreement from the listeners.
Billy's voice chops expressed very essence of the spirit of Jazz. It was poignant and bittersweet.
We ended the explosion with the Azar Lawrence Quartet. Azar on Soprano and Tenor Sax, Nate Morgan on Piano, Roy McCrudy on Drums, and Edwin Livingston on Bass.
If the joint was previously jumping with a uncontrollable blaze, this was the total explosion beginning with The John Coltrane tune "Chasin' the Trane". Azar's earnest and compelling message would make converts out of the entire city! The music was filled with complexity, excitement, love, peace, communion, unity, and life.
Roy McCrudy's drive took us to that perfect pinnacle in Jazz while Nate Morgan on piano emotively took us through some of the most colorful modes. Edwin Livingston was right in the pocket christening the crowd with his innovative bass work.
The quartet resolved the mission with the opulent Mongo Santamaria piece "Afro Blue"
The intervals of bending notes, expressive chord changes, and glorious melody and harmony made me wonder..."Did Christmas come early? What precious and loving gifts were presented for each of us from The California Jazz Foundation.
And yes....An Explosion of Jazz and An earnest tribute to the greatest art form known to man since music began.