Le Colonial, hidden away on Cosmo Street in San Francisco, is known for its ambiance, drinks, cuisine . . . and intriguing music. Last Thursday night I made my way there to hear a small group led by the inventive pianist / accordionist Rob Reich — with the soulful Kally Price on vocals — with reedman Danny Brown, drummer Eric Garland, and the reliably swinging Clint Baker on string bass.
Readers of JAZZ LIVES will know how much I admire the independent spirits Kally, Rob, and Clint — individualists each paddling their way upstream and sharing the surprises with us. Rob continued to approach his keyboards from unexpected angles, the results energetic and full of feeling. I distrust the accordion, having had a childhood involvement with that cumbersome instrument, but Rob has clearly left both left-hand chugging and melodrama behind him (in the case, no doubt). And his piano work sounds like something heard in the right small club in 1946.
Clint swings the band no matter what he’s doing there — leading it on trumpet, supporting it on bass, tuba, drums, guitar, banjo . . . singing . . . and so on. And what an eloquent soloist he is!
Kally Price is dramatic without artifice, searching for meaning, unwilling to sing any song if one phrase feels false to her, going beneath the comfortable surfaces of the familiar popular twists and turns to extract deep feeling. Hear what she does, for instance, with the verse of BORN TO LOVE or the whole of IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN.
Danny Brown and Eric Garland were new to me, but they provided musical conversion experiences. As the evening progressed, Danny moved from a lazy late-Lester approach to a more assertive stance, suggesting that Jacquet and Dexter had returned to their California haunts. He didn’t walk the bar or carry on, but his rough, dark energies were irresistible. And Eric, playing wire brushes for most of the evening, just swung in his own way — not loud or overbearing, but reliably forceful with a beautiful steadiness in his time.
Here are some highlights.
STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY — not too fast but certainly compelling from the first beat:
A Latin-flavored COCKTAILS FOR TWO with just a hint of ironic amusement — a Jazz Mojito with a twenty-first century twist:
Kally’s version of BORN TO LOVE, inspired by Billie Holiday but darker, more passionately raw:
RUSSIAN LULLABY, which made no one sleepy:
GETTING SOME FUN OUT OF LIFE, again thanks to Billie but taken quite seriously:
I associated THE DUMMY SONG with a 1953 performance by Louis, but I hadn’t known that the song dated back to 1925 — by Lew Brown, Billy Rose, and Ray Henderson. The story is told in the verses: Johnny, a returning soldier, surely from the Great War, finds his sweetheart is unfaithful to him — first with a sergeant, than a colonel — so he sings this vindictive song:
A SMOOTH ONE, homage to Charlie Christian and tenor saxophonists who glide without forgetting how to be a little rough:
An utterly impassioned reading of IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN that dwells much more on the rejection, the slight, than it blithely suggests that the romance can be saved:
May your happiness increase.