I had heard a great deal about the lyric troubadour Jimmy Mazzy (also a wonderful banjo player, raconteur, songhound, and more) but had never encountered him in person until late August. It was a phenomenal experience. No, it was two phenomenal experiences.
Jimmy was part of the Sarah Spencer Quartet: Sarah, tenor saxophone and vocals; Bill Sinclair, piano; Art Hovey, string bass and tuba — playing a gig at the wonderful Sarah’s Wine Bar in Ridgefield, Connecticut. (Facebook calls Sarah’s a “pizza place,” which is like calling the Mona Lisa a smiling lady.) More about Sarah’s below.
And more about the saxophone-playing / singing Sarah Spencer in a future blogpost, with appropriate audio-visuals.
Sometimes the finest music is created when it appears no one is paying attention: the live recordings, the music that’s captured while the engineers are setting up or in between takes (WAITIN’ FOR BENNY and LOTUS BLOSSOM are two sterling examples that come to mind). In a few instances, I’ve brought my camera to the soundcheck or to the rehearsal because the “We’re just running this through” ambiance is a loose friendly one — shirtsleeves and microphone-adjusting rather than the musicians’ awareness of tables of expectant listeners. In that spirit, I offer Jimmy’s seriously passionate version of Lonnie Johnson’s TOMORROW NIGHT.
I think you see and feel what I mean about Jimmy as a passionate singer / actor / troubadour. If a maiden had Jimmy beneath her balcony, serenading like this, she would know that he was offering his whole heart to her with no restraint and no artifice yet great subtle powerful art. Those of us in the audience who aren’t maidens and perhaps lack a balcony can hear it too.
But Jimmy is a sly jester as well — totally in control of his audience (even though there’s a long, drawn-out “Ooooooh, no!” from Carrie Mazzy, Jimmy’s wife, at the start of this anthropological exegesis):
Jimmy Mazzy, two of a kind. And more. Irreplaceable.
And there will be more from this session. Now, some words about the delightful locale: Sarah’s Wine Bar in Ridgefield, Connecticut, features world-class jazz music on the last Sunday of every month. But that’s not the whole story: Ken and Marcia Needleman are deeply devoted to the art form, and they’ve been presenting it in style since 2009. Ken is a guitar student of Howard Alden’s, and he decided that he wanted to bring top jazz musicians to perform in an intimate setting (with excellent food and fine acoustics). They found kindred spirits in Sarah and Bernard Bouissou, restaurateur and chef of Bernard’s, one floor below the wine bar.
Thus the Jazz Masters Series began in February 2009, and I’ll mention only a double handful of the musicians who have played and sung to enthusiastic audiences: Howard Alden, Bucky Pizzarelli, Gene Bertoncini, Dick Hyman, Rossano Sportiello, Mark Shane, Frank Wess, Scott Robinson, Harry Allen, Warren Vache, Ken Peplowski, Dan Levinson, Jon-Erik Kellso, Rufus Reid, Jay Leonhart, Cameron Brown, Matt Wilson, Akira Tana, Joe LaBarbera, Mike Mainieri, Cyrille Aimee, Karrin Allyson.
The food critic who writes JAZZ LIVES wants to point out that the food was wonderful and the presentation delightful. Sarah’s Wine Bar would be a destination spot if the only music was the humming heard in the kitchen.
But right now I want to hear Jimmy sing TOMORROW NIGHT again.
May your happiness increase!