The Bumble Bee's View of the Garden:

Opinions on Jazz and other topics
The Jazz Garden is all around you

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a concert of music by a personal hero of mine, Jazz saxophonist and composer Benny Golson. Anyone who has played at a few jam sessions knows his classic Killer Joe, which Quincy Jones recorded as a pop hit back in the 80s. I like the original with Art Farmer much better, but more people probably heard Q's version in one week than those who know the Jazztet recording. Benny also wrote for TV and films, providing the music in the action scenes for shows like Mission Impossible. Golson performed as part of the Traditional Jazz Series at the University of New Hampshire, an annual series of concerts that focuses on the mainstream of Jazz music. So far they have presented the great pianist Hank Jones, older brother of Elvin and Thad, and one of the undisputed masters of Jazz piano. The series will continue with trumpeter Byron Stripling; guitarist Gene Bertoncini, in the company of local saxophone ace Fred Haas; the great pianist Marion McPartland, who is also very well known for her NPR radio program Piano Jazz; and a group of specialists in early Jazz styles led by trumpeter Peter Eckland.

The Golson concert was a joy. Backed by a trio of James Williams, one of the outstanding pianists working today, John Lockwood, a bassist who lives locally but works internationally, and Yoron Israel, one of New York's busiest drummers, Golson played many of his best known compositions as well as the works of others that have special meaning to him. At 72 Benny is fit and is playing as well as ever, combining technical mastery with a composers insight and emotional conviction. The rhythm section was everything he could have wanted, attentive, supportive and able to match his musicianship at every turn. The wit and fluidity of James Williams' playing delighted and, on more than one occasion, astounded the audience. This was the first time Benny had worked with either John of Yoron and he was absolutely delighted with them. He heard why John Lockwood is in such demand not only for his solid support, but his lyrical solos. Several times during the evening, Golson signaled the bassist to take another chorus, clearly showing his delight in John's playing with a big smile and words of encouragement. Yoron Israel was given only two features, but they were at the end of the sets and he was given free reign. Israel is one of the most tasteful and melodic drummers on the scene today and his "story telling" skills drew applause and cheers of delight from the audience. In the last tune of the night, Are You Real, which was an opener for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers when Benny was in the band, Yoron invoked the spirit of the great drummer while "singing in his own voice". For anyone who had heard the Messengers or knows the recordings it was a particularly masterful display of jazz drumming.

UNH's Traditional Jazz Series, which has been running for several years now, is one of the true bargains left in this world. The tickets for the concerts by renowned musicians are only $10. They would be $20 or more in Boston or New York. And the whole season, if ordered in advance, is only $40. Something to think about for next year. A brochure can be obtained by calling (603) 862-2404. Tickets are available by calling (603) 862-2290 or by going on-line at Closer to Lowell, Jazz fans should remember that there is music every Friday and Saturday at Ricardo's Trattoria, 110 Gorham St., Lowell, MA 978-453-2777 The rotation at Ricardo's includes the young pianist Sae Ghose, who is starting to get national airplay of his recent CD and toured the west coast in the last few months. There are Jazz duos for you dining pleasure every Saturday evening at La Boniche, 143 Merrimack St., Lowell, MA 978-458-9473. Over in Nashua, Michael Timothy's, 212 Main St., 603-595-9334, has Jazz every night of the week, the last I heard. Many of the region's finest performers are featured there. I have also learned that the Charles Club at C.R. Sparks, 18 Kilton Rd., Bedford, NH 603-647-7275, has resumed its Jazz programing, although I have not had the chance to get by there myself, yet. Then there is Casa Vecchia on route 97 in Salem, NH 603-893-6553, which has been running an excellent series on Tuesday evenings for several years now. If you want to do some playing yourself there are jam sessions at The Worthen House, 141 Worthen St., Lowell 978-459-0300 on Tuesday evenings; also on Sunday afternoons at The Acton Jazz Cafe, 452 Great Rd., Acton, MA 978-263-6161, where they also have a regular Friday night show and a special on Tuesdays when internationally respected tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi performs with a trio, unless he is off in Europe or Japan giving a concert.

Thing can change, so remember to give a call first, but you should be able to get out and hear some live jazz weekly. CDs and radio are fine, but live is the best.

-Vy, vol.2 #6, December 2001.