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One Summit and a lot of Swinging
Sunday, December 2, 2007
by Steven D. Harris
Back to Past Events page

The CJF offered its first Jazz Summit on Sunday, December 2 to an overflow crowd of more than 250 jazz fans. The dinner-concert, emceed by Dick McGarvin, took place at Catalina's Bar & Grill in Hollywood. A variety of high-caliber talent took the stage, starring more than a dozen performers in all. There were many jazz dignitaries in the jazz club cheering on the players, such as Howard Rumsey, Gerald Wiggins, James Moody and Buddy Collette among others.

After an exquisite meal, the Bruce Forman Quartet opened the show with four selections. Sticking mostly to timeless standards, Forman's group played like groove merchants on Cole Porter's I LOVE YOU, CHEROKEE and a Wes Montgomery–inspired blues. YESTERDAYS is adaptable with most tempos, and this version received a brisk touch-up featuring Chuck Berghofer on bass.

There are singers and there are musicians and Roberta Gambarini happens to be both. Her set changed the high–energy room to a more attentive, spellbound quality. Gambarini has a way with dynamics, so one has to be more focused to catch her nuances and timbre in voice and mood. For this reason, her musicians are apt to listen even more. Her repertoire started with a swinger, DAY IN-DAY OUT, and segued to pieces like the soft and delicate YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SPRING, the samba NO MORE BLUES and the bluesy CENTERPIECE. Among her eight selections, the always dramatic LUSH LIFE was sung like a whisper, with the stylistic inflections between some verses leaving one in a state of rapture. Even the archaic POOR BUTTERFLY worked in the caressing hands of Gambarini.

Just when you thought the sounds could not be more invigorating, trumpeter Roy Hargrove proved otherwise. His capable quintet (Ernie Watts–sax, Tony Dumas–bass, Marvin Smith–drums and youthful Gerald Clayton–piano), along with exciting tenor man Kamasi Washington, played superb hard-bop material , but then Hargrove motioned for just rhythm accompaniment. He switched to the mellow flugelhorn to offer Kurt Weill's SPEAK LOW, played at the dreamiest pace imaginable.

To interrupt such a musical extravaganza with an auction might ordinarily cause folks to head for other places. But the entertainment it provided (as well as a good cause for assisting jazz musicians in need) was something no one anticipated. Among the ten items for bid, a private "Tamir Hendelman Piano Concert" was the evening's electric (if not surreal) highlight. One bid outdid another and several minutes later there seemed no end in sight. Even Todd Wohl, the pro auctioneer, could hardly keep a straight face during the mirthful tension. Hendelman, part of Gambarini’s ensemble, witnessed the whole proceedings and surely must have felt the pressure of living up to such worship. If finally ended with two determined vendees, the lesser one bowing out to an incredible bid of $3,250. By night's end, the total auction brought in about $13,000.

In the coda, this special event left sound prints resonating in the room long after everyone had emptied it.