Last weekend, I caught two of the most diverse male vocalists on back to back nights at the Jazz Kitchen. Steve Tyrell, with his gritty voice, gave a polished set of Great American Songbook standards in front of a packed room of predominately female fans. With the veteran trumpet of Lou Soloff featured in his quintet, Tyrell crooned and gently swung his way through songs of romance by the great composers.
Kurt Elling was a totally different matter. Here was a risk-taking jazz singer. The trio, headed up by Elling's collaborator/pianist Laurence Hobgood, opened the set with an instrumental version of Miles Davis' tune "Solar" that showed Hobgood to be a proficient player in the Bill Evans mode. Elling scatted, went into vocalese, bent notes and stretched his phrasing on standards and jazz classics. Outstanding was his rendering of "Esperanto," featuring philosophical lyrics over a repetitious theme with a section where he recited a poem by Chicago poet Horace Smith titled "Something" and then returned to the original lyrics and theme. It was a powerful presentation that the capacity audience appreciated.
The Memorial Benefit Concert for "Pookie" Johnson, the legendary saxophonist of Indiana Avenue, last Sunday in the Ballroom of the Madame Walker Center, was a night full of musical memories provided by all of the 29 local jazz artists involved. The evening's musical highlights were too numerous to mention. But when 85-year-old Aletra Hampton sang "God Bless America" and powerfully hit a note four octaves up, fans and musicians alike were wowed. It was a fitting climax to the evening. All of the proceeds were to benefit Betty Johnson and the Inner City Music School, a non-profit school in Brightwood where "Pookie" passionately taught with some of the night's performers, providing free music lessons to children 8 to 16 years of age. Thanks to all that were involved for making a difference toward "Pookie's" legacy.
Jazz in the park
Sunday, Sept. 25 American Legion Post 249 will sponsor the final Jazz in the Park series of the season at Watkins Park. Clifford Ratliff will lead the Indy Avenue Jazz All Stars in a Tribute to "Pookie" Johnson in a free concert from 4 to 7 p.m.
* Convergence plays Eddie Merlot's Friday, Sept 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
* Brix Bistro in Zionsville has guitarist/vocalist Daniel Young on Tuesdays. The Flat Five will play Thursday, Sept 22. Music is from 6:30 to 9 :30 p.m.
* Summertime On Easley Street at Easley Winery features guitarist Bill Lancton Saturday, Sept 24 from 2 to 5 p.m.
* The Tim Brickley Quintet plays the Friday Night Swing Dance at the Fountain Square Theatre from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.