Spokane Jazz Orchestra Sunday, Oct. 8, at The Met
With the introduction of a new music director Saturday, the Spokane Jazz Orchestra ushered in a new era. Dan Keberle led the big band to a higher level of playing than I have heard from it in the past.
The band was sizzling hot as it took Met listeners on a tour of the Americas: South to Mexico, Cuba and Brazil. Even in the mellow tunes the SJO maintained an infectious Latin beat, and turned the tour into a party.
It seemed as if every member of the group was having a great night. The kind of relaxed concentration that kept the band’s ensemble playing tight put the audience on the edge of its collective seat. Solos were focused and exciting.
Tenor saxophonist Gary Edighoffer probably got paid mileage for his frequency in stepping up to the mike. From his flurry of notes in “Samba de Rollins” to a melding of lyric and furious in Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia,” Edighoffer exhibited invention and control.
Paul Plowman has a whole closet full of woodwinds, and can play the cork grease out of all of them. He picked up the soprano sax for an incredible non-stop journey to “St. Thomas” and on the finale, Chick Corea’s “La Fiesta,” started on piccolo, then blew an alto sax solo which was paced from low and slow to screaming.
Trombonist Dave Stultz did some nice solo work throughout the evening, as did trumpeters Bill Hartley in “St. Thomas” and Keberle in his tributes to Dizzy, “Manteca” and “A Night in Tunisia.” The rhythm section all deserves kudos for kicking major tail, but Bob Vasquez gets the gold star for subdividing the beat a million different ways in his “Manteca” conga solo.
Pamela McGuire offered her unique vocal stylizations of Jobim’s “One Note Samba” and “Quiet Nights,” as well as that hauntingly disjointed tune by Corea, “500 Miles High.” The band took a break and she was accompanied by Edighoffer and the rhythm section.
The Spokane Jazz Orchestra’s season - its 21st - is being billed as “Old Enough to Swing.” There is a distinction between “being entitled to” and “taking responsibility for.” Clearly, the band has put in the effort to reach a new level of maturity in its performance.
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