If one guitar is mighty fine, four are fantastic on a perfect weather Saturday. Bill Lancton has been gifting Jazz Kitchen patrons with spring and fall Guitar Summits since 2002, and has been showcasing groupings of from three to five of Indianapolis’ growing pool of virtuoso guitarists in venues around Greater Indianapolis. You never know who is going to show up to showcase a wide ranging jazz repertoire – straight ahead, latin, funk — always backed by a bassist and drummer who also get their moments to shine.
April 18 the line up with Lancton included guitarists Steve Weakley, Frank Steans and Joel Tucker, bassist Scott Pazera and drummer Greg Artry. Opening with Sonny Rollins’ “Pent-Up House” in medium tempo the feeling of Rollins’ saxophone was close at hand, and that’s when you’re immediately aware this sextet of players is in sync with each other, having fun. Street funk informs the mood of “Blues in Maud’s Flat” with the feel of composer Grant Green’s guitar high slung. All six were handing off the tune, weaving the story and feeling the angst. It was with Wes Montgomery’s Latin Funk “Road Song” that one got the point about the guitar as an extension of the body, draped between heart and gut. It’s a tune you move to in your seats, and you know the magic of the guitar comes from its inner soul, simultaneously introspective and transportive. The audience was fully participating.
The voice of Andy Wiliams tends to surface with the first hint of Henry Manchini’s iconic “Days of Wine and Roses” yet Steve Weakley and Frank Steans with fine bass and drum backup made it their own. The initial misty dream with first one then the other finding a path out but eventually circling into a dream with no way out but to curl up into itself and so it ends—or not. The tune lingers.
“How Insensitive,” Tom Jobim’s ultimate word on the end of a love affair, appeared in a handful of minutes on their original album “The Girl From Ipanema” but on Saturday the lament lingered as the question got tossed up and down, back and forth musically. It’s a hefty tune with layers and layers of probing. Guitars supply a doppler effect of emotions.
The 7:00 set ended with a rousing rendition of Herbie Mann’s “Comin Home Baby.” It started life as a minor-key blues instrumental by bassist Ben Tucker; Mel Torme perfected the vocal version originally. Canadian singer Michael Buble most recently recorded a vocal version.
What Bill Lancton’s Summit proved on April 18 is that any original composition can transfer its inner soul to guitars in any configuration — solo, duet, trio or as a quartet. As an ensemble with bass and drums the program offered a wide spectrum of emotional and aesthetic connections. And while it’s always wonderful to meet up with the seasoned players, the special treat was hearing a newer up-and-coming guitarist. IU Jacobs School of Music graduate Joel Tucker bears watching.