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Reviews
Trios to Remember 2
Sunday, December 19th, 2010
When I hear the word trio pertaining to Jazz, I automatically think of, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Budd Powell, Red Garland, Hampton Hawes and the list goes on and on. On December 19th 2010, VTY Jazz dedicated this "Sunday Serenade" to the great trios of yesteryear. They brought in two of the finest young pianists on the scene today in Donald Vega and Oscar Perez along with their trios and the results were simply amazing. Accompanying Oscar was Matthew Rybicki on bass and the ever swinging Ulysses Owens Jr. was on drums. Donald was joined by Essiet Essiet on bass and the tasteful Leroy Williams was his drummer. Many of Jazz's hard-cores showed up to Creoles to experience this pre-holiday treat.

The first set opened with the Oscar Perez trio and right out of the box you knew they were ready when they opened the set with "Take the Coltrane."I remember when that album came out and all the dialogue it had created. Duke Ellington and John Coltrane! You can't get better than that. What I love about Oscar is he will play the head of a tune and then give it a whole new twist with nuances and punctuations that clearly show what Jazz is all about. I guarantee you that Duke and ?Trane dug the trio's version of "Take the Coltrane." They followed that with the Thelonious Monk composition "Just You, Just Me." Once again I loved what they did with the tune. Matthew loves playing off of Oscar and Oscar loves filling in the spaces that Matthew creates. These cats definitely have a chemistry on the bandstand that is unique and you can clearly see they really enjoy playing with one another.

The next piece was the Cedar Walton tune "Bolivia." This piece is one of my all time favorites from Cedar's song book and the cats did a remarkable interpretation of it. Oscar starts with a catchy angular romp that if you listen closely, reminds you of Horace Silver. The tune is somewhere between a blues and Latin feeling. In a trio setting this piece of music gives one a great vehicle to stretch and develop ideas. Oscar clearly has some chops and a very compatible rhythm team :). As I had often said, time and space does not allow me to write about each and every tune, but that is why it's so important to get out and hear this music live and in person.

After Oscar and the trio performed the Fats Waller classic "Jitter Bug Waltz", they knocked everyone out with the Ned Washington and Hoagy Carmichael original "The Nearness of You." It was a lovely version of a beautiful standard that brought a few tears in this listener's eyes. The next tune was "Caravan" and other than a glimpse here and there you would have never known it was Caravan. This featured a magnificent solo by Ulysses that had him all over the drum kit.

After a brief intro by Oscar you recognized "Body and Soul." I love what he does with these classics and by the reaction of the audience I wasn't the only one. They closed out the set with "I Remember April." What a way to close out a set and it definitely was a set to remember :).

The second set opened right where the first one left off, right down the middle and in your face with a McCoy Tyner original, "Inception." Donald and the trio came out with energy and fire that was remarkable. Leroy's solo here had great taste and feel. The next tune was the Thelonious Monk original "Pannonica" and this featured a lovely bass solo by Essiet Essiet. I got to feel Donald was listening very carefully to the first set and what Oscar Perez was doing with the compositions the trio played. He had his own twist to Pannonica that was very interesting and lent itself very nicely to the evening. They followed that with the beautiful "Tenderly." Donald reminded everyone that Oscar Peterson had performed that with drummer Ed Thigpen, whose daughter Denise was in the house. After Donald's solo Essiet Easiet took another magnificent solo before Donald and Leroy went back and forth trading fours before taking it out.

The next composition was from the pen of bassist Charlie Haden called "My Spanish Love Song." This is a fantastic piece of music where you can feel a classical influence throughout the tune. This piece featured Essiet Essiet and his solo was full of Flamenco textures. I could almost feel that the trio was painting a beautiful piece of work fit for canvas. How can you play a set without the blues? And what a great choice with the Charlie Parker masterpiece "Cheryl." You could see they enjoyed playing that. The beautiful "Darn That Dream" followed and what a treatment was given to this standard. The next thing that happened was just a big surprise to everyone including the musicians. Andy Gonzalez, the great bassist, joined the trio on the Wayne Shorter original "Foot prints." What a joy to hear this remarkable artist in this kind of a setting. You could see the sheer enjoyment in the faces of Leroy and Donald and if anyone cared to look Essiet Essiet had a smile from ear to ear sitting at the bar :). They closed the set out with another blues from the pen of Phineas Newborn Jr. called "Harlem Blues". How fitting, since we were in Harlem. Let me tell you they swung Harlem Blues right through the doors and into the Harlem streets and gave you a soulful ending to another "Sunday Serenade."

We understood that when doing a concert where there are no horns on a front line you are catering to the purest of fans. Looking around and seeing all the fans smiling and having a great time, I'd say that VTY Jazz once again gave a Sunday that will be remembered. To look around the room and see all of the Jazz luminaries in the house and how they blended in with their fan base is simply a sight to behold. I say that because of what this country is going through at the present time. These are the toughest of times and to see what this music can do for a listener is simply amazing. Music heals the soul and gets you through tough times.

If you want to see something that is unique, I suggest you get out and see what a "Sunday Serenade" is all about, "I guarantee you you'll be glad that you did."
- Arnie Perez
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