Don Lanphere Saturday, Nov. 18, Hobart’s Jazz Alley
Don Lanphere’s first Spokane appearance in many years was a warm and rousing success.
Lanphere played at Hobart’s Jazz Alley Friday and Saturday with the Arnie Carruthers Trio - Carruthers on piano, Noel Waters on bass and Tom Shager, drums. Carruthers’ daughter, Charlotte, opened each set with a strong vocal performance.
Lanphere was a bebopper when he hit New York more than 25 years ago, but his playing has eased back closer to the mainstream. His work Saturday night on tenor sax was reminiscent in spots of both Stan Getz and Paul Desmond, while the soprano sax tended to take him into more adventuresome waters.
Lanphere has become a superb balladeer and his talents shine in a song such as “Ghost of a Chance,” where his tone and articulation on tenor carried the emotion and intent of the human voice, as if Lanphere were singing the solo through his horn.
An inventive “Cherokee” showed flashes of the younger player as Lanphere’s soprano solo promised the melody but veered instead into quicksilver diversions. The sax man’s tease built the tension as Carruthers jostled the rhythms into knotty shapes and clusters underneath.
Again on soprano, Lanphere attacked the rising line of Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring” with a startling richness of tone, as bright and round and full as any Christmas ornament.
His soprano on “My Funny Valentine” was satiny and lustrous, with just a hint of the steeliness that gives the instrument its strength.
In an evening of fine ensemble work, that song stood out for the fine contributions of Waters and Shager - Waters for his ripe tone and lyric support of the soloists, Shager for the delicate propulsion of his brush work.
Carruthers was inspired - and inspiring - throughout the evening. Close your eyes and you forget he’s playing with just one hand, and his wicked sense of humor kept Lanphere on his toes.
Lanphere goes way back with the extended Carruthers family and Saturday night a sense of family warmth took the music up a notch or two. The two old friends threw musical jokes and verbal quips back and forth all night long and when Lanphere ended one solo with the “shave and a haircut” riff, forcing Carruthers to add his “two bits,” he started a running joke that held up all night.
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