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Reviews
Remembering Milt Jackson & Cal Tjader
Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
The Bassline was once again the place to be on Sunday August 22nd when VTY Jazz paid tribute to two icons of the vibraphone, Milt Jackson and Cal Tjader. A packed house was on hand to welcome back to Mount Vernon vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, and was he ever up to the task. Surrounding Jay on the Bassline bandstand was bassist Andy Gonzalez, keyboardist Marcus Persiani, drummer Steve Johns and Anthony Carrillo on percussion. This concert also marked the last "Sunday Serenade" to be held in Mount Vernon at the Bassline. VTY Jazz has definitely outgrown the cozy Bassline room and is now headed for East Harlem and to the beautiful Creole Restaurant & Music Supper Club.

The first tune was a Milt Jackson original that was dedicated to his wife, "Sandra K Jackson", who by the way, was on hand. You knew immediately that this band was not just going to go through the motions. Not having seen Jay in many years, I was pleasantly surprised to see he hadn't lost a thing :). The second tune was the classic, "If I were A Bell" written by Frank Loesser. Jay's sense of harmony was quite evident on this tune. He definitely had that vibraphone sounding as clear as a bell and his interaction with the other members of the band was very reminiscent to this listener of Bobby Hutchinson. When you speak of Bobby you are speaking of Milt. This first set featured so many great tunes that covered a broad spectrum of Jazz and Latin music: Tadd Dameron's "Lady Bird", Miles Davis's "Half Nelson" and "Airegin" (Nigeria spelled backwards) that Sonny Rollins made popular. The band also played Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight", Mario Bauza's "Mambo Inn" and the Chano Pozo classic "Manteca". I loved the medley they did on "Lady Bird" and "Half Nelson" and Anthony and Steve's playing off one another. You knew the percussion was well taken care of. The first set included seven tunes and each one was worth mentioning, that is why you need to catch this music live and in person. The first set closed with a swinging version of Manteca and they had the fans at the Bassline ready to get up on their feet and start dancing. Just a fabulous set of music played by an equally fabulous group of talented artists.

The second set opened with the Benny Golson original "Whisper Not." Jay opened up with a beautiful intro and he definitely ran with it from there. His variations on harmonics & rhythm are just so wonderfully used. He is so comfortable on the vibes, you can see the music running through him. After a brief solo by Marcus Persiani, Andy Gonzalez took a solo that I believe was his best of the afternoon. He knows exactly what is needed and his mastery of the bass is something to behold. Jay came back and the group took it out in classic style. They followed "Whisper Not" with the Thelonious Monk composition "Rhythm-A-Ning." Jay opened with a brief solo followed by Marcus. Anthony Carrillo's solo was a thing of beauty and you could feel he inspired the whole band. Jay and Steve Johns followed that with a very inspired trading of eights before Jay took the Bassline audience on a solo that had him all over the vibraphone.

Then the unexpected happened. Jay called up the beautiful Diva of song, the lovely Ms. Antoinette Montague. She is no stranger to the Bassline audience and is a part of the VTY Jazz family. After her Beyonce entrance, her choice of the Jimmy Van Heusen tune "I Thought About You" was just perfect. Each and every time she hits our stage she is just so inspired and her voice sounds better and better with every appearance. As she once told me after sitting in for the first time at a "Sunday Serenade," "The bands are so tight I just don't want to mess things up." Antoinette Montague tore up "I Thought About You" and I'm sure Jimmy Van Heusen loved her rendition :). The next composition was a medley, one being the Cal Tjader tune "Curacao" and the classical "Ode to Joy." Once again space will not allow me to give you all the many highlights that were captured during this medley. As the saying goes, "You had to be there." "Ode To Joy", as Jay remarked after playing, was learned on the spot by Steve and Jay. Before bringing up the great Puerto Rican trombonist Mr. Papo Vazquez, Jay unbuttoned his shirt to show the audience as well as his band mates the tee shirt he was wearing "Salsa." Everyone including Jay got a big laugh out of the honorary Puerto Rican of the day "Jay Hoggard" :).

What took place next after bringing up Papo Vazquez was something quite rare. With Andy Gonzalez, Marcus Persiani and Papo Vazquez being on the same stage you had three members of the Manny Oquendo & Libre group. They all collaborated on the Tito Puente composition that was recorded by Cal Tjader, "Picadillo A Lo Puente." Talk about spontaneous; they all had a ball playing this extended version of "Picadillo A Lo Puente." Papo being a part of Tito's band for many years was right at home with this piece. As Jay told me after, "when you have a guy sit in like a Papo Vazquez you are talking about the highest quality of musician that this music has." That was quite evident with the way they tore Tito's tune up. They then brought up Steve Johns fourteen year old son Daryl who is quite an amazing talent on bass. Couldn't help but notice the joy in Andy Gonzalez's face watching young Daryl on Andy's bass. They took it out with the Charlie Parker original "Now's The Time." Young Daryl met the challenge and his band mates knew this was not your ordinary fourteen year old. He has so much poise for someone his age that it is scary. Papo kept on shaking his head as to what the young man was laying down.

This concert marked the end of "Sunday Serenades" at the Bassline. I'm sure what lies ahead for VTY Jazz is bigger and better things at Creole Restaurant and Music Supper Club. One thing I walked away from the Bassline with that rainy Sunday Evening was that the two years spent here were incredible and the fan support was fantastic. This tribute to Milt Jackson and Cal Tjader was nothing less than spectacular. To Jay, Andy, Marcus, Steve, Anthony, Papo and Daryl, you sure left something that will be remembered for a lifetime. To the many fans that attended this end of an era concert, we thank you for coming out and making this last Sunday in Mount Vernon so memorable. Great fans deserve great music and we are now headed for East Harlem and we promise you more of the same.
- Arnie Perez
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