One Summit and a lot of Swinging
Sunday, December 2, 2007
by Steven D. Harris
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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
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.