Live Jazz: The Billy Childs Jazz Chamber Ensemble at Vitello’s

By Tony Gieske

Billy Childs comes right out and admits it: He was inspired by Laura Nyro.  He liked her collaboration with Alice Coltrane on Christmas and the Beads of Sweat.

And so he formed the Jazz Chamber Ensemble, which also has at its nucleus, piano, acoustic guitar, and harp. A version of this he brought to Vitello’s Saturday ((Nov. 5))  with salutary results, to paraphrase Walter Pater.

Marvin "Smitty" Smith

Naturally, his familiar guitarist partner Larry Koonse gave Childs as good as he got during this improvisation-laden evening.

And there were a couple of added solo attractions riding the dashing rhythm section  of Hamilton Price, bass, and Marvin “Smitty” Smith, drums.

One was harpist Carol Robbins, who found a groove as down-home as you could ask with no flowery embellishments.  The other was the avant-garde saxophonist Katisse Buckingham, whose tonality bucking duel with Childs on the latter’s extended work in E flat partook of the historic in its last measure-for-measure exchanges.

(Robbins had preceded the Buckingham performance with some fours-trading of her own.)

Childs likes to create tone poems based on physical landscapes. Tonight, however, he worked with a foundation of music alone, which in my opinion is what one ought to do. Hate to have to thank Laura Nyro.

Photos by Tony Gieske.


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