Armando’s in Martinez has beer, wine, and a good deal of jovial amusement from a fairly local audience who came to hear the band. This little bar / club / hangout is located on 707 Marina Vista; it features a variety of good music, as the regulars know. See their schedule (and the painted chairs) at http://www.armandosmartinez.com
But I went to see and hear a particular band: Mal Sharpe’s BIG MONEY IN JAZZ (a whimsical title for sure) — drawn from a floating collection of players. On August 25, 2011, the band was Mal (trombone, vocal, and stern leadership), Jim Gammon (trumpet), Dwayne Ramsey (reeds), Jeff Hamilton (piano), Simon Planting (bass), Roy Blumenfeld (drums). (Mal’s group appears at Armando’s on the last Thursday of each month and at other venues as well. But he’s got too many identities to harness them into one website — Google “Mal Sharpe” and see for yourself.)
It’s rewarding to know that this version of jazz — loose and unbuttoned but expert — still thrives. I admire Jim’s power and precision, Dwayne’s passion and expertise. And Mal is very modest about his trombone playing, but he’s devoted to Vic Dickenson, and some of that humor and slyness comes through. (Mal is a splendid bandleader as well: years in show business of every variety have taught him how to make an audience feel comfortable in minutes.) Simon’s bass and Roy’s drums have their own individualistic sounds, and Jeff (yes, that Jeff Hamilton) creates swinging clouds at the keyboard — from stomp to impressionism in the space of a solo, most rewardingly.
Hear what this band does with four jazz classics.
Hello, Central, give me DR. JAZZ:
LADY BE GOOD:
SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET:
ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:
It’s reassuring that bands like this still exist, and that places like Armando’s provide a comfortable place for them to play — and the audience was having a good time. What more could anyone want?