By Tony Gieske
The myriad kudos Ron King has collected saluting his work as one of the town’s greatest professional trumpet players were nowhere in evidence on the bandstand at Charlie O’s Saturday night. There was not so much as a T-shirt.
He got right down to business with a strange black plastic mute in his horn and a mellow ballad coming out, although without the customary overtones that give the sound a dusty surface. His usual perch as lead trumpet in a recording orchestra gives him a magisterial perspective on the melody.
King’s improvisational output, however, seemed coldly efficient, however brilliantly decorated with impossibly swift and wide gruppeti, which are turns; huge skips from top to bottom and back again in the blink of an eye; and spectacular slides into third base.
The well-chosen rhythm section brought welcome vivacity to the classic number “Sister Sadie.” King got to swinging pretty good on this one, not all that much of a feat on a great Horace Silver head. And with Lorca Hart, drums; Jimmy Cox, piano, and the extraordinary Brandino on bass, the forward motion was unstoppable here, as it was on the up-tempo successors “Perdido” and a Woody Shaw original.
Yet I listened in vain for a little bebop from the leader, or a few blues licks. It was just one miraculous technical feat after another, a truly impressive recital of brass-playing skill and power. With an exception: Very skinny above the staff, he was.
Cox knew his bebop quite well and improvisational riches flowed from his keyboard, fresh and authoritative. Brandino, whose usual credit is Kevin Brandon, has backed Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige, Beyonce and Stevie Wonder on some recent Grammy contenders, among other distinguished gigs. He knows just what to do, no matter where, what or when, bebop or not, and Hart partnered him flawlessly.