The pianist Rossano Sportiello is a consistent delight as a musician and as a gracious, witty person — someone I’ve admired since I first heard him play and met him in autumn 2004. And he has good taste in musical friends / colleagues / accomplices: witness the first set of this concert from Saturday, July 28, 2012, at Dominican University in San Rafael, California, produced by Paul Blystone.
Rossano was joined by the expert drummer Hal Smith, the strong bassist and charming singer Nicki Parrott, and the young piano phenomenon Stephanie Trick.
The concert at Dominican University took place in the beautifully old-fashioned Angelico Hall — great acoustics — and these four players obviously took Jake Hanna’s advice: “Start swinging from the beginning. If you’re not swinging, what are you there for?” to heart from the first note.
Every solo passage was beautifully shaped, but the generous interplay among the four musicians was even more rewarding. Duo-piano concerts sometimes become an overwhelming tidal wave of notes, but Rossano, Stephanie, Nicki, and Hal were gracious swing conversationalists, politely leaving the other players (and the audience) room to breathe.
They began with a sentimental favorite (often used to end the dance!) that became a swing classic in the Thirties, I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:
Since everyone except Nicki was already seated, it was perhaps logical to play I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER — and it honors Mister Waller, always a good idea:
I NEVER KNEW brings back the 1933 Benny Carter recording with Teddy Wilson as well as the irreplaceable Keynote session with Lester Young, Slam Stewart, Johnny Guarneri, and Sidney Catlett:
Stephanie took the stage for a leisurely AIN’T MISBEHAVIN':
Here she rocks SHOUT FOR JOY:
Willie “the Lion” Smith’s early KEEP YOUR TEMPER:
Nicki turns romantic with a pretty EAST OF THE SUN:
Ms. Parrott raised the temperature in the hall considerably with her rendition of Peggy Lee’s FEVER:
And the foursome closed the first half with a dual homage — to the Benny Goodman small groups and the stride master James P. Johnson, who composed RUNNIN’ WILD:
More to come.
May your happiness increase.