Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dedicated To You...

…was the title given to a special performance by Kurt Elling from NYC w/the Laurence Hobgood Trio, and special guest star Ernie Watts. The third of four presentations in the Lobero Theater Jazz Series this season tore a page from the ATP/Don’t Look Back series of presenting classic albums, and in this case, the spotlight was on 1962’s ‘John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman’. Watts, the protean tenor session man from LA, was the absolute business. His resume stretches from the Tonight Show band to Stones sessions to a place of honor in Charlie Haden’s Quartet West. Elling made a point of mentioning the lift that they get out of working with Watts, and it was evident at every entrance he made into the proceedings.

Elling was a great host, and the whole unit did a great job of using the Coltrane/Hartman set as a jumping off point, and further explored Hartman’s catalogue, and left room to showcase the player’s own interpretations, while remaining true to the spirit of the night. Hobgood used the piano to anchor the night, and provide the fulcrum upon which all rotated. He kept the pacing between the players and vocalist on an even keel, and sparkled in his turns in the spotlight.

Highlights of the night were 'Autumn Serenade', and Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Lush Life’, given a beautifully modulated reading, and while the lyrics might be slightly dated, that melancholy mood is eternally universal. The interplay between Elling and Watts caught the nature of the record, which is a testament to the power of conversation between two voices.

The rhythm section did a stellar job all evening, (their names being lost to posterity, however), with special note being made of the drummer, who was supportive and eloquent, whether with sticks or brushes. The bass man was done wrong by the sound mix; I strained to hear his solos, both of which were inventive and concise, that rarest of things. (This could very well have been my seats-I’ll keep an ear out for that in the future…)

All in all, a stellar night of jazz, and a great setup for the finale: Mr. Ron Carter will be appearing at the end March to bring another season to a close.

featuring ERNIE WATTS
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Lobero Theatre
Santa Barbara, CA

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