For the first time in 35 years, Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts returned to the stage. Envisioned initially by Ellington as a “Festival of Grace,” provenance for Sacred Concerts is informed by a broad spectrum of jazz, classical and choral music, spirituals, dance, gospel, and blues. Ellington’s compositional product in this venue consisted of a triptych of 34 songs originally recorded in 1965, 1968, and 1973 respectively. It can be argued that an august Ellington facing his mortality considered his Sacred Concerts among his most significant works.
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Wendel’s songs are strikingly original, expressive, and extraordinarily inventive. His ideas and improvisations are freely chromatic, virtuosic, and organic, and he employed subtle be-bop idioms when it suited him. His facility is so commanding that he regularly reaches into the stratosphere of the tenor saxophone’s extended range. Notably, he can express ideas with the restraint of Lester Young while employing the pyrotechnics of Charlie Parker.
Charlap is a virtuoso with full command of his musical voice on the piano who, with his fellow artists, lifted spirits and touched hearts. Fitting his artistic soul and imagination, Charlap played with passion, rich cinematic grace, and delicacy. His fiery offerings were an elegant, eloquent creative commentary that created energy and excitement.
Gilkes’s new album Cyclic Journey touches anyone who appreciates and enjoys world-class artistry and virtuosity in classical and jazz idioms. Cyclic Journey is a musical adventure where the listener can experience the sounds of a team of musicians at the top of their game. At the same time, Gilkes shares his biographical virtual journey that emerged from his creative imagination. As you listen, close your eyes, and permit yourself to be transported through his ephemeral, beautiful sonic world.
Tony DeSare introduced each song in an engaging and deeply personal way. His manner and charm in speaking were as crucial as his singing and playing. Audience members sighed when he spoke of his nine-year-old son and the romance and beauty of Paris. They nodded and smiled as he described the provenance of each musical gem.
The audience was packed with Douglas’ loyal followers. As she introduced songs and told anecdotes of her mingling with the likes of Dolly Parton, Lena Horne, or Roberta Flack, people nodded and smiled in affirmation. She projects a sentimental, nostalgic, and caring persona and each song she sings creates a warm, safe, embracing space. Balancing her view of life through song is her sense of humor, a sweet smile, and joie de vivre.
The Alexa Tarantino Quartet made the scene at the Birdland Jazz club. Alto saxophonist Tarantino brings the Bird back to Birdland with her smooth, mellow sound. She’s cool, relaxed, and versatile as she solos and trades with the best of them, allowing everyone to speak their own musical voices to songs in a great groove. She draws us into her world of energy, excitement, and romance. Her sound is soulful, rich, and as subtle and formidable as she commands.