Thursday, September 11, 2014

Indy Jazz Fest launches its 10-day run with festival spirit at UIndy

You can dependably bring a diverse crowd of jazz-lovers together with a well-chosen program of classic tunes based in hard bop and reaching into the fusion styles of the 1970s. And that's the kind of approach you need when you're seeking to attract a busy September public to the annual Indy Jazz Fest.

Masterly guitarist Bill Lancton was also a genial emcee.
Accordingly, Bill Lancton and colleagues took care of business Thursday night in the DeHaan Fine Arts Center at the University of Indianapolis. The guitarist led the Indy Jazz Fest Band in nine tunes of the jazz-party sort, and his own first-class professionalism was upheld by his six sidemen.

They were Allen  'Turk" Burke, piano and organ; Rich Dole, trombone; Tom Clark, saxophones and flute; Mark Buselli, trumpet and congas; Scott Pazera, bass, and Vince Jackson, drums.

Hits from the 1960s and 1970s were on the menu. Solos were typically crowd-pleasing sojourns unfolding from a few understated phrases up toward stirring climaxes full of virtuoso display, majesty and humor.

Once Burke left the grand piano and took his seat at the Hammond B-3, the party was launched in earnest.

The vehicle for introducing Burke the organist to the crowd was an up-tempo version of Erroll Garner's "Misty." That raised the temperature in the room in the best sense, helped by Clark's molten alto playing. The intricacy of Horace Silver's "Opus de Funk" followed, with more fiery Clark and a typically whole-hearted Lancton solo.  The jumpy ensemble interludes were always a treat each time they came around to punctuate the solos.

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" — one of those rare jazz hits on the charts (back when the charts were simpler) — had earlier confirmed the fitness of this ensemble to carry out the program's exhilarating duties. Dole's solo had a brawny, exultant spirit to it; his more lyrical playing on Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" made for a nice contrast.

Buselli brought his fertile imagination to every trumpet solo, in addition to holding his own on congas in a good-natured percussion duel with Jackson on James Brown's "Cold Sweat."

Burke was always a pleasure to hear. He shone on the Meters' "Sissy Strut," and was characteristically strong both in soloing and anchoring the accompaniment.

The generous program ended with Chick Corea's "Spain." The ensemble became a little looser on this one, but the tune's sprawling structure was generally well-served in this performance — and we got to enjoy Clark's sole outing on flute and a Pazera electric bass solo.

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