I first met Jon De Lucia at a concert celebrating tenor legend Ted Brown’s birthday. The concert was held at Michael Kanan and Stephanie Greig’s The Drawing Room, so I knew the very gracious young man traveled in the best company.
But I hadn’t heard him play. It turns out that my ignorance of Jon — altoist, clarinetist, and imaginative composer / improviser — was a serious loss, which I remedied on April 15, 2016. Slightly after noon on that day, Jon gave a graduate recital at City College of New York — a degree requirement so that he could receive his Master’s in Jazz Studies. With him (and alongside him) were Greg Ruggiero, guitar; Aidan O’Donnell, string bass; Steve Little, drums. Pianist Ray Gallon joined in for two performances.
A Master in Jazz Studies is what Jon De Lucia is, and as I write this he hasn’t even worn the robes or gotten his diploma.
Jon’s recital lasted about an hour, and he and his ensemble performed seven improvisations — most of them his own arrangements and reinventions over moderately familiar chord sequences (with one glorious ballad). But this wasn’t an afternoon of thin contrefacts, so that the members of the audience could say in two bars, “Oh, that’s LADY BE GOOD.” “Again.” No, Jon showed off his craft, his subtle gift for creating luxurious melodies, actual songs.
As you’ll hear, some of the music had a dreamlike serenity — elusive and lovely; at other points I thought of the dear seriousness of Fifties West Coast jazz, or dance movements from early modern classical yet with a strong pulse. It was delicate yet pointed, light-hearted but never effete.
Jon’s music didn’t fit easily into stylistic boxes (which is delightful): his lines soared, his solos had their own internal logic; the music breathed and rang and glistened. Not only is he a wonderfully seductive altoist, his tone sweet and tart, avoiding avian flurries of notes or post-Parker harshness, he is a master of that unforgiving horn, the clarinet.
I was thrilled to be in the audience. And once you’ve heard only a few minutes of this music, you will understand why.
PRELUDE TO PART FIRST:
I’M GLAD THERE IS YOU (a breathtakingly gorgeous performance):
RONDO A LA RUSSO, featuring Aidan O’Donnell:
THE Q 25 BLUES, inspired by a bus and its route:
LOST AND FOUND, by Hod O’Brien, its title a sly wink at its origin, as is the riff that sets up Steve’s solo passages:
I salute him and his colleagues, and look forward to hearing more.
May your happiness increase!