By Don Heckman
Los Angeles. There was a full house, enthusiastic crowd in attendance Saturday night at Disney Hall for the KJAZZ benefit concert. As there should have been.
The importance of FM radio station KJAZZ 88.1 to jazz fans cannot be under-estimated. I may not agree with the programming 100% of the time, but KJAZZ is nonetheless at the top of our radio buttons, in our cars and our living room. And deejays such as Bubba Jackson, Helen Borgers, LeRoy Downs, Bob Parlocha and others have become familiar and friendly jazz voices.
There was a lot to like about the KJAZZ benefit concert, as well. The presence of singer Steve Tyrell and pianist Jason Moran as headliners offered a range of jazz elements, with a lot to please different tastes.
Tyrell, as always, applied his appealing Texas twang and gently swinging jazz phrasing to a scintillating list of offerings from the Great American Songbook. Ranging from standards such as “It Had To Be You” and “I’ll Take Romance” to more recent singer/songwriter items such as “On Broadway” and “Will You Still Love Me,” he thoroughly demonstrated his authenticity as an appealing jazz artist.
On several numbers he was joined by the warmly engaging vocalizing of Jane Monheit and the articulate playing of pianist and KJAZZ deejay David Benoit.
The evening was kicked off by the highly regarded young pianist Jason Moran. Praised by the New York Times, Down Beat and Jazz Times, he quickly revealed the adventurous quality of his playing.
At the heart of his imaginative improvising, Moran approached the piano in a way reflecting the view of the instrument as an orchestra in itself. While some of his excursions roved into complex, busy-fingered areas, he was never less than an appealing artist, and surely one of the finest jazz artists of his generation.
Add to all that, there was the presence of a stellar back up band including pianist Quinn Johnson, guitarist Steve Cotter, trumpeter Bijon Watson, bassist Lyman Medeiros and drummer Kevin Winard. Along with especially appealing solo efforts from Cotter, Johnson and Watson.
Call it a memorable evening – one that informed, entertained and reminded us of the significance of KJAZZ as a valued entity in the Southland jazz community. Let’s hope that the concert raised the funds needed to keep KJAZZ alive, well and swinging.
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Steve Tyrell photo by Bob Barry.
Jane Monheit photo by Faith Frenz.
Jason Moran photo by Tony Gieske.