Live Jazz: Denny Seiwell, John Chiodini and Joe Bagg at Vitello’s

By Don Heckman

Drummer Denny Seiwell, who made a rare appearance at Vitello’s Friday night, has a resume reaching from Zoot Sims and Al Cohn to Joe Cocker, the Who, Art Garfunkel, James Brown and many other jazz and rock luminaries.  But his most significant musical association may have been the time he spent as a founding member of Paul McCartney’s Wings.

The trio he brought to Vitello’s – with guitarist John Chiodini and organist Joe Bagg – had little to do with rock.  But recollections of his days with McCartney dominated the first part of the trio’s opening set via instrumental jazz versions of such familiar Sir Paul tunes as “Comin’ Up” and “Dear Friend.”  Some worked well, others had the feeling of a shotgun marriage.

Denny Seiwell Trio

Denny Seiwell Trio

Seiwell’s muscular drumming added an appropriate rock-orientation to the McCartney works.  The balance of the set – which included pieces ranging from originals by Bagg and Russell Malone to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Favela” – demanded (and received) a more appealing, straight-ahead jazz approach.  At their best, the results had the intimate, musically interactive qualities of a trio of players completely at creative ease with each other.

With Seiwell seated in the center, functioning as the trio’s propulsive rhythmic engine,   Chiodini and Bagg provided most of the set’s improvisational adventuring.

John Chiodini

John Chiodini

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Chiodini is one of the Southland’s first call guitarists, and the diversity of his playing made it clear why he is in such demand.  Moving comfortably from the McCartney pop/rock tunes to the samba rhythms of “Favela” and the crisp swing of the jazz oriented numbers, he was always imaginative in his solos and solidly supportive in his rhythm section work.

Joe Bagg

Joe Bagg

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Bagg’s contributions were equally valuable.  The Hammond B-3 can dominate bands larger than the Seiwell trio.  But in Bagg’s articulate expressiveness the instrument came alive, bringing surprisingly large orchestral textures to the trio environment.  Crisp and hard driving in some of the groove-oriented pieces, he balanced his probing solos and rich back-up textures with provocative exchanges with Chiodini’s guitar lines.

Add it all up – Seiwell’s rhythmic leadership combined with the prime ensemble  work and solo improvising of Chiodini and Bagg – and the result was an intriguing evening of first rate jazz occasionally spiced with some rock-oriented musical flavors.

Photos by Faith Frenz. 

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