Black History month wrapped up on February 28th, 2010 with many celebrated events. The community at the University of Southern California's Alfred Newman Recital Hall presented a tantalizing spirit of musical bliss to honor glorious music and the musicians that made it magical.
Pianist and Guitarist David Arnay and his extraordinary trio gave remarkably soulful renditions of hallmark Jazz pieces and innovative pieces. The literally incomparable Nedra Wheeler was on Bass with the always infectiously addictive Angel Figueroa on Percussion. Before or after selections performed, David shared in depth about the piece giving the audience an inside view of his colorful and open mindset and history into the music.
The set began with a composition by Mr. Arnay - Wayne in Spain, A tribute to Saxophonist and Composer Wayne Shorter and to the Blue Note Label which is a Jazz Record label established in the late 1930's to early 1940's. There was nice brushwork on Congas by Mr. Figueroa with all sorts of other percussion pieces in his kit that added wonderful seasoning to the tune. Nedra on Bass shared an exceptional groove. The piece was filled with accents and lines that would bring an appreciative smile to Wayne's face.
The trio challenged their Jazz devotees’ ears with the legendary Saxophonist John Coltrane's "Giant Steps". This piece is known for its fast tempo and rhythm changes particularly in the Horn section. David however, lays it out with a mellow twist that is persistent and driving emotively as the original masterpiece. The performance had a lush feel with a hint of Blues.
Ah!!! It was a very soul-filled and glorious musical gem for the winter's night.
Once again Ms. Wheeler's solo was impeccable and David's attention to the essence of Jazz was wonderfully engulfed in every phrase. He is a very sensitive musician, whenever he is playing his own version of a great Jazz piece it is done with style, freshness, and complete inspiration.
"In the Tall Grass" another original rendition opened with a nice maybe 8 bar intro by Angel, and then Nedra joins in. Angel seemed to call on music with his very soul correlated with the piece.
In honoring one of the greatest Musicians/Pianist ever - Bill Evans, Mr. Arnay gave a splendid composition called "Billville" it was harmonious and lyrically pleasing with complexity and warmth like a waltz in gentle rain. A gorgeous tribute on the Ivory and Ebony Keys by David was infectious and inviting. His style calls for an occasional shout as he connected with the audience and musicians.
I imagine that Bill would have basked in every minute of the tune.
"Daddy's Groove" provided a sponanteously uplifting and finger-popping format at the bridge (mid-section) of the piece. Angel and Nedra never missed a soulful beat. The joy of listening and participating in their creative interaction was very cool.
There was lots of call & response on a spiritually intuitive novel song, "Kumbengo" honoring a West-African Harp like Instrument known as the "Kumengo Kora". The movement on Piano by David was one that made you experience a holistic transformation.
We were immersed in a night of a joy and excursion with the trio. Their exuberance and correlation with each other transcended the stage, sweeping myself and the remainder of audience into their bond.
The rapturous rhythm section continued to please us with "Message to Prez (Bennie Maupin) not Duke Ellington also referred to as "The Prez" by Musician/Vocalist Billie "Lady Day" Holiday was another original composition that displayed a beautiful prose in melodious Jazz fashion to the attentive audience.
What a wonderfully fitting way to start the upcoming work week and to end Black History Month by expressing beautiful discourse in one of the greatest art forms - Jazz.
You can catch David Arnay with a different Bass Player on Friday evenings at the Parkway Grill in Pasadena sharing more great sounds for your listening delight.