George H. Russell Trio jazzes it up at the Old South Church
THE GEORGE W. RUSSELL TRIO JAZZES IT UP
THE GEORGE W. RUSSELL TRIO
Works by Hancock, Camillo,
Rodgers and Hart, and others.
Old South Church, February 26.
By DAVID M. J. SASLAV
THE SECOND CHAMBER RECITAL in the Old South Church series featured the George W. Russell Trio in an upbeat jazz medley. Named for its animated pianist, this trio found resonance in many styles. Blues, Latin, boogie-woogie, even schmaltz found their way into the fun, to name just a few. In all respects, this group excelled.
Opening with a rousing Rodgers and Hart number called "Green Dolphin Street," they followed with an original work called "Swing Me So Hard." This number served as a fine showcase for each of the performers: Russell on piano, Wesley Wirth on acoustic and electric bass, and Thomas E. White on drums. Each player's extended solo spurt earned him true "cat" status. Wirth's spidery string-snapping was dynamic -- too bad he killed the volume on the amp attached to his bass during the first number!
Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns" was truly mellow. A good arrangement and White's refusal to show off were critical. After some programming confusion (someone hadn't brought the right music) the trio sent the sizable audience down a long, lazy river with Duke Ellington's "Sentimental Mood." The arching, lyrical bass effect was great. Latin composer Michel Camillo's "Pro Voce," a peppy drum/keyboard showcase, was carried out with aplomb. A reflective gospel medley featuring the spirituals "Amazing Grace" and "Kum-ba-ya" moved Russell to try his hand at some scat as he played. He then knocked out a piano solo, "Teach Me Tonight," while Wirth changed to the electric bass.
Another original composition called "Grooving" followed, and for an encore the trio plunked out a Herbie Hancock number, "Maiden Voyage." All in all, the group showed enormous crowd-pleasing potential; Wirth revealed afterward that they are "gearing up" for a major publicity run. For now, they will be reappearing as part of the ongoing Honors Jazz Ensemble festival at Jordan Hall and Northeastern University this week (see On The Town). Everyone who felt the loss of the 1369 Club in Inman Square last year should catch one of these recitals -- the incomparable Stan Getz is scheduled to make an appearance with the NEC Honors Jazz Ensemble (which includes the Russell Trio in its membership) tomorrow night.
As for the Old South Church, the fascinating series of free concerts which church organist Frederick MacArthur has assembled continues next Sunday at 4 pm. This concert features Donald Zook and William Buonocore playing Spanish, French, and German classical on flute and guitar.