What a joy it was to be back for some edgy, brilliant jazz at the Maurocco Room in the Midland Hotel last Sunday!
Great to see Cathy Boerema first up on the stage. She cheekily introduced her set as “Cathy and. . . God Knows.” No doubt this was a comment about the many displacements band members have felt since lockdowns and the damn virus have taken so many musos away from where they belong—up on the stage. Mind you, she was doing rather well on Sunday with the amazing Bernard Boulton on keyboard, Don Calvert on bass guitar, Peter White on sax, Ken Cook on lead guitar and Bill Thomson on drums. All very accomplished musicians and a good combination. Cathy did a rendition of “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was” and an upbeat version of “Dark Eyes” sung in French and English, then invited her sister Kirsten from the audience to sing Satchmo’s “What A Wonderful World” with her. Very pretty.
MINING COLE was up next with Valerie Colyer on keyboard, Brian Paulusz on lead guitar, Chris Imfeld on bass, Andrew Dunn on drums and Wallace White, vocals. They did a wonderful version of Fats Waller’s “Aint Misbehavin’,” the singer reminding me of Al Bowley, Not that I am old enough to have been around when the crooner was, but I’ve seen a lot of film footage because Al’s was a style I always liked. An instrumental, “Alice in Wonderland,” followed, then Helen Dewhurst sang Jerome Kern’s “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” from Showboat and Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll” with some nice keyboard work from Valerie. All great stuff.
A highlight for me is always THE MAINE COURSE, with vocalist Jaz Stutley, lead guitarist Brian Paulusz, Don on bass, Bill on drums and Lee Benewith on trumpet. They delivered “When I Get Low I Get High” with great pizzazz then switched to the gentle melancholy of “Smile” that was apparently written by Charlie Chaplin. Don’s contemplative bass and Lee’s meditative trumpet solos gave a beautiful depth to this number and the thing about Jaz’s voice is that she articulates so beautifully—you can hear her every word. Added to this is often a mellow vibrato over which she seems to have full control. Their last item, “You’re Drivin’ Me Crazy” started off quietly enough but became very upbeat, as THE MAINE COURSE is delightfully wont to do.
THE PHILIP CHEEK QUARTET gave us “The Gentle Rain” with a Bossa Nova beat. I think it was written by the Brazilian composer, Luiz Bonfa. Phil on tenor sax and Peter on alto seemed to be having a conversation as first one and then the other took over the melody. They were accompanied by Don on bass and Bill on drums. (These two gentlemen did a lot of work today, stepping up for a couple of players who usually join us at this time and place.) “Soul Eyes,” no doubt written by Johnny Coltrane, followed, a slow, haunting ballad, then “Nostalgia in Times Square”, a Big Band item courtesy of Charlie Mingus.
More instrumental music followed with DBQ. A seductively sonorous solo trombone played grace notes that were so light and deft you wondered if you’d actually heard them. But yes, they were there, I’m sure of it. The other thing that astounded this member of the audience was Dave Tolputt’s pianissimo. How do you get a trombone to whisper so intimately while you’re hearing every note with absolute clarity? Dave’s versions of “Blue Moon” and “When I Fall in Love” were meditations par excellence. But I forget myself. Dave was accompanied by Bernard on keyboard, Pip Avent on tuba, Don on bass and Bill on drums. Sheer pleasure, gentlemen, you excelled yourselves.
MIDNIGHT MANTRA was the last, but certainly not the least band to perform before the jazz jam. With Mel Traves doing vocals, Ken Cook on lead guitar, Bill on drums and Don on bass, MIDNIGHT MANTRA launched into the Billie Holliday song, “You’ve Changed.” This was followed by the Cole Porter number, “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.” All quality stuff showcasing Ken’s virtuosic guitar-playing and Mel’s vocal gymnastic feats which were especially apparent in “Round Midnight”, the last song in the set.
Now it’s a well-known fact that in your actual jazz jam at the Maurocco Room, anything can happen. Julian Harrison gathered at least a dozen musos for the jam to extemporise on the melody lines of a few tunes.. But this lot can do extraordinary things with such a small amount of musical information. And they did.
Julian, who is probably the best jazz flautist I’ve heard performing live, did play his flute but he also sang and he has a very powerful voice. He was joined by a lady called Ange, who has an equally powerful voice. Starting with “Stormy Monday,” they then brought us “Watermelon Man,” Jerome Kern’s “Yesterday” and “Mustang Sally.” Accompanying them was Bernard on keyboard, Dave on trombone, Phil on sax, Lee on trumpet, Frances on violin, Mel on drums, Chris on guitar, Henry on flugelhorn, Don on bass, Trevor on guitar, Wayne on sax and Peter on alto sax.. If I’ve missed anyone, I apologise. Mea culpa and all that. You can add your name and comments to this post.
At one stage, Dave muted his trombone with what looked like a plastic cereal bowl, but as I said, anything can happen at a jam. It’s always a glorious conclusion to a great afternoon. The only false note in the event this Sunday was that we missed Alan Richards, one of our drummers, who usually comes all the way from Melbourne with his lovely wife June, to join us. We hope to see you two again in April.
Many thanks once more to our host and hostess, Mauro and Ann, who’ve been providing us with such a beautiful venue on the first Sunday of each month at two o’clock. The jazz is scintillating and the jam will blow your mind.