Grace & Passion at Jazzaar 2008
This week’s Visions of Music Jazzaar Concerts produced by Fritz and Helen Renold, once again paired young Aargau musicians with renowned American players for an unforgettable educational experience. Los Angeles-based jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton and her band were the focus of a Thursday night tribute to Cole Porter. Sutton’s pianist, Christian Jacob, directed the Aargau Youth Jazz Orchestra (AYJO) and shared piano chores, while her bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker comprised the rhythm section.
Jacob, who created inspired arrangements of many of the Porter songs, kicked off the show with a medium-fast swing rendition of “I Love You.” It was a perfect showcase for Sutton’s supple voice on soaring high passages and blues licks at the coda and for incendiary solos by guests Tom Garling (trombone) and Tia Fuller (alto saxophone). Sutton’s dark-hued vocals caressed the romantic lyrics of ballads “After You”, “Easy To Love”, and “All of You.” Her impeccable intonation and surefooted phrasing were evident over Brinker’s quick brushwork in the drum-vocal duo “Just One of Those Things.”
Student musicians Christoph Huber (tenor saxophone) and Marcel Czaja (piano) held their own in their spotlight numbers as did clarinetist Christoph Schnyder (an AYJO alumnus) who premiered Fritz Renold’s stylistically adventurous Concerto for Charles. The piece also featured a thoughtful muted trumpet solo by Steve Reid (another Los Angeles guest). Throughout the 15-song set, Sutton et al transfixed the audience. After a lengthy standing ovation, the orchestra’s encore was a reprise of “I Love You.”
For Friday’s Grooves & Moves concert, four Berklee-trained vocalists and six top American instrumentalists who have worked with numerous superstars augmented the 24-piece Aargau Youth Funk Band. All week, the pros coached the students, shaping the program that featured nine new songs by Fritz and Helen Renold and more. The music covered rich musical and lyrical territory with rhythmic grooves from Ghana (“Onipa, Onipa Pa”), salsa (“Campesinos”), funk (“Jupiter”), and jazz (“Lyle”). The lyrics spoke of politics, Mexican worker woes, religious salvation, and the exhilaration of rejuvenated love.
Guest artists Kamaria Ousley, Kevin Ross, Grace Taylor, and Rashad McPherson sang their solo numbers with passion. Student instrumentalists Simon Spiess, Anna Diem, Roman Tschupp, and Jonas Leuenberger performed admirably in their solo spots. Drummer Michael Baker, bassist Reggie Hamilton, and keyboardist Shedrick Mitchell (of Whitney Houston’s band), laid down a powerful groove for instrumental excursions by fellow veterans Vernon Black (guitar), Dennis Montgomery (organ), and Barry Danielian (trumpet).
The joy in the faces of the young choir and orchestra radiated to the audience, and the crowd demanded more after the last song. Montgomery led the band in five impromptu gospel encores, sending the excited KuK audience home to the sound and spirit of a black Baptist church meeting.