Sunday, January 12, 2014

Once Upon A Time...(Allen Kanovsky takes in Calvin Newborn w/ Al Waters Sextet at Arts Garage)

Submitted by Al Kanovsky 01/12/14

...A long time ago, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour made seven "On the Road" movies from Singapore to Utopia. Now, a new trio is on the road to "Good Listening".

Jimmy Belize and I met Tania on our recent JAZZ adventure to Cuba. No road, just a short flight away. Her demeanor, attitude and personality fit well with ours. Last night this trio attended Arts Garage to hear the legendary Calvin Newborn (guitar) with the Al Walters (sax/flute) Sextet. In the band were Lance Reed (trombone), Javian Francis (piano), Lawrence Buckner (basses), and Bruce Royal (drums). Tania brought the Scotch, Jimmy brought assorted nuts and cashews, I brought a small bag of M&M's. Seated with us was Bob Weinberg (JazzBluesFlorida and JAZZIZ columnist).

The room was pretty well full. The music started with a tune titled "Native Dance". It was the first time I had heard most of the band members so I paid close attention. They took turns with solos - first the piano, then trombone, sax, guitar and bass. The harmonics were unusual and interesting. In the closing bars, the trombone played the upper scale while the sax took the low range. We looked forward to the rest of the program, and were not disappointed.

They played an original next, "Art & Soul". Calvin led off with his solo and a novel approach to the melodic line. I must say it was great listening to a guitarist who made every note count. Al played flute in a duet with Lance. They brought N'Awlins to the room with a 2nd line tune. It was interesting how they easily changed mood, mode and style. Al played the soprano sax followed by Calvin's guitar solo and Francis transitted from plinking notes to full voice piano.  Bruce played a short, neat drum solo, and Lance took it on out.

The band left the stage to Calvin, and he sang a song dedicated to his brother. Calvin was at times a little off key, but his sincere emotion carried the tune. The band returned to do Benny Golson's "BLUES After Dark". Javian Francis' solo showed a lithe right hand. There was a touch of Teddy Wilson, a hint of Thelonius Monk chords, and a little of Avery Parrish's "After Hours". Another Calvin composition, "Sure 'Nuff" featured Al and Lance. They did another Calvin tune "7th Heaven". The whole band was in a groove and swinging.

"Whispering Pines" inspired Javian and he impressed us again with his solo section. During the break I asked about how a band that is so mixed, age wise - 20-somethings to 70-somethings, get along so well. I found out that this was the first time they were all together as a unit. Wow! It is apparent why Al Waters earned his long-term chair in the Ray Charles Orchestra.

Calvin has a long history with JAZZ and BLUES. His life from a young age on is full of accomplishments. To name just a few... he established a regular gig opening for Count Basie in the 50's, joined groups led by Wild Bill Davis, Jimmy Forrest, and Earl Hines. He also played on dozens of sessions led by such greats as Charles Mingus, Roy Milton, Ray Charles, Sun Ra, and Hank Crawford. Calvin taught underprivileged children at the Stax Music Academy, worked as assistant director of Jazz Studies at LeMoyne-Owen College, and recorded two solo albums... and, still there is more!

Bob Weinberg was having a good time with the performance. The 2nd set opened with a ubiquitous tune titled "Omnifarious". What a use of terms, which featured Al on flute. They continued with Al playing flute with a tune dedicated to Yussef Latiffe, and then Bobby Jasper's "Flute BLUES". Javian delivered once more, and then Bruce traded 4's with all the band members.

Tania recognized the next tune as "Ain't No Sunshine" and the band once again was in a groove. "At Long Last Love" gave Bruce, at long last, his first solo. "Centerpiece" gave Calvin another opportunity to impress the audience with his originality and imagination. "Killer Joe" had Al featured on flute, and then coupled with Bruce on drums. Lance got his chance on "All Night" and did himself proud. Calvin wrote a tune titled "Ubiquitous" (where did he get that word?), which he said was Monk's "Straight No Chaser" backwards. Listening to the opening phrases, you knew he was right. His solo contained quotes from a lot of BLUES, JAZZ and Soul songs. Al did it again with an outstanding solo to "take it out". 

It was a good night for music and Arts Garage. Our gang went to "Da Da" for a late night snack and beverage. The "Road To..." to be continued...   

Al's Disclaimer:
A short note: The reason I write this is because I love music and words. I do not book acts. I do not promote acts. I do not accept invitations to review artists. I go to venues of my own choice. When and where is not influenced by anything other than who I would like to hear that night or day. If I don't like what I hear, I won't write about it. When I like it I let you all know. I never mention a name without asking permission. "Pardon me, Miss. Would you like to dance?"       

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