This was a wonderful set — full of love in the lyrics and love for the music.
It took place at the 2010 Jazz at Chautauqua party, and a quintet full of beautiful singer-poets was in the spotlight. Trumpeter Bob Barnard, clarinetist / singer Bobby Gordon, pianist Rossano Sportiello, bassist Jon Burr, drummer John Von Ohlen played Irving Berlin and Harry Warren, paid homage to Louis and King Oliver, Bix and Basie, as well as Edith Piaf and Dick Powell. You wouldn’t want any more, would you, in the space of half an hour?
Bob Barnard has a great love for melodies and their associations, so THE SONG IS ENDED resonates with him as a triple play: Louis, the Mills Brothers, and Irving Berlin. But Bob is also a sly humorist: how many players start the set with this title? Even though “the melody lingers on,” as it does here:
Then Bob wisely asked Bobby Gordon what he had in mind for a second number, and the poetic Mr. Gordon chose that old favorite SWEET LORRAINE. I don’t know why I broke it in two, but I suspect I was carried away by the emotions Bobby aimed at all of us. And — let there be no mistake here: Bobby looks somewhat frail in this performance, sitting in a chair, bringing the microphone close to his lips, but his heart is strong, and that’s what matters:
That fellow Louis recorded I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU late in the Fifties, and it’s a wonderful creation. I don’t know whether Bob had that one in mind or he simply knew the tune — or perhaps saw the film with Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, and those Busby Berkeley exuberances. Whatever the reasons might be, it’s an intriguing and less-played song to improvise on:
Then — in his own romantic exultation, singing of passion and loss, Mr. Barnard offered LA VIE EN ROSE, his lines arching into the night and the room, ecstatically and sadly:
But an audience needs something of a different emotional tenor to conclude, so Bob called for the faithful ROYAL GARDEN BLUES and sent it off at a Basie tempo:
I can’t forget to praise that wonderful rhythm section — the two singular melodists Rossano and Jon, and the honest timekeeper John — who made this an ideal small group, swinging, poetic, intuitive, and full of feeling.