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Reviews
Tenor Magic
Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
On November 22nd Very Truly Yours Consultants Inc. paid tribute to another living Jazz Icon, Johnnie Garry. These "Sunday Serenades" have created much interest with a hard core fan base that come ready to show their appreciation for this magnificent art form called Jazz. This concert brought together two of Jazz's better tenor saxophonists, Willie Williams and Azar Lawrence. They were accompanied by a rock solid rhythm section consisting of Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano, master percussionist Alvester Garnett and an amazing bassist named Paul Beaudry. You knew during the sound check that something special was about to happen once again at the Bassline in Mount Vernon, New York.

The Bassline has hosted these "Sunday Serenade" concerts since August 17, 2008 and the room seems to compliment what takes place there perfectly. The opening number of the afternoon was John Coltrane's up-tempo original "Moment's Notice". This tune was preformed with only Azar along with the rhythm section. He was right at home on this tune as he took the Bassline crowd on a swinging journey of chorus after chorus of sounds that reminded one of John Coltrane. That marvelous rhythm section had a chemistry that was even more amazing considering the limited time they had to rehearse. After the Thelonious Monk standard "Blue Monk" the quintet got into a spirited version of the Kenny Dorham classic "Blue Bossa". The remarkable thing about this tune was the pace in which it was played. Willie opened up with a fiery solo that just set the pace to what was going to take place. Azar followed with a solo that had him taking you on a jaunt that you hoped would never end. Onaje followed and he just tore this tune apart with jabs and punctuations that had you shaking your head in disbelief. This was not an easy tune to follow, but follow they did with a marvelous treatment of "My One And Only Love". Just a beautiful version of a standard that had these two tenor saxophonists play their hearts out. The quintet followed that masterpiece with another masterpiece "I want to talk about you". Azar and Willie just kept going back and forth with one another like to say "this is so beautiful that I just want to talk about you my friend". You could tell these gentlemen have a lot of respect for one another. I might add that the solos taken by Onaje and Paul showed a great deal of sensitivity.

The final tune of the first set was the Thelonious Monk composition "Bemsha Swing". The highlight of this tune was a fantastic solo taken by Onaje. After they had taken it out Azar went over to Onaje and you could see how much he enjoyed his solo as the two were slipping one another five.

The Second set opened with "Equinox" and if you thought you saw it all in the first set think again. Right out of the box the quintet let you know they had a lot more in their tank. Azar's opening solo had him all over the horn. Inside outside you name it he was whaling away with great support from the rhythm section. Alvester's percussive work was something to behold and at one point was just using the bass drum. Willie was next up and he was listening well as he at times flirted with the upper registers of the horn while honking on the lower registers. At one point during his solo he put that Philadelphia accent by trying to put his knee in the bow of the horn and the hard-cores loved it. Onaje's two handed solo made great use of dynamics before the quintet took it out. They followed that with an up tempo version of "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise". Willies solo was another one that made you wonder how much more horn can this guy play. At one point he took his right hand off the horn while shaking his fist in an up and down motion. Azar's solo was a "take no prisoners" straight ahead swinger that had the support of that amazing rhythm section. Paul Beaudry's work was right in the pocket and he was going to make sure that Azar wasn't going to leave him behind. Onaje followed with another splendid solo before the group took it out. Other highlights were a knockout version of "Body and Soul" and a spirited version of "Oleo".

As I reflect on this tribute to Johnnie Garry I know this music is well taken care of. There is a spirit and energy found at these "Sunday Serenades" that are not common. Either the bands are too rehearsed or the chemistry is not right. You also have the problem of an audience that is not there to hear music. The Bassline just lends itself to making everything right. VTY Jazz definitely knows something about this music and brings in musicians who buy into their philosophy of nothing, but the real thing. If you still have not gotten out to hear what I'm talking about you are missing some great music by people who love this music. Hope to see you soon because the pots are definitely on.
- Arnie Perez
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