Monday, September 17, 2007

A magical evening at the Duke Ellington Festival

Last Thursday, September 13, I saw a wonderful intimate performance by vocalist Roberta Gambarini and pianist Hank Jones as part of the 3rd Duke Ellington Jazz Festival in Washington DC. This performance which included wonderful interpretations from the American songbook (including Duke Ellington's Come Sunday, Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life and others). One highpoint was her performance of Sunny Side of the Street based on Dizzy Gillespie's recording with Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins. She scats like Ella, does some vocalese and has such a pure voice that is an instrument like the voice was for Ella. The most sterling moment was Irving Berlin's Supper Time written for a thirties review. Written for Ethel Waters, it is a song about a woman waiting for her husband who won't be home for supper because he's been lynched. A very simple, straight-forward delivery that was quite moving. As one might expect, Hank Jones was marvelous as an accompanist. They have a duet album coming out, so keep an eye for it.

BTW, they answered some Q's and A's from the audience and one member of the audience came with her mother who had suang with Hank at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo in the fifties. hank spent a lot of time in Cleveland and Buffalo in those years. And after his night was done he would catch Art Tatum at some other Buffalo venue. Chicken wings were invented later at the Anchor Bar.

Hank also accompanied Marilyn Monroe when she sang Happy Birthday to President Kennedy. He is the older brother of the late drummer Elvin and late trumpeter-composer Thad. Quite a family and he was quite funny in addition to being a marvelous pianist.

Recommended listening-
Roberta Gambarini - Easy to Love
Hank Jones as part of The Great Jazz Trio (with his late brother Elvin)