Perhaps this is quibbling, but one supposes that the early departure of many in the second set indicated that "Trumpets, Trumbones and Troubadours" at the Commerce Department auditorium Saturday -- nearly four hours of quality jazz -- became something of an endurance contest between performers and audience. The Charlin Jazz Society must learn to prune. Yet consider the lineup and forgive them their sins: two international stars and seven of D.C.'s finest.
Al Grey, the reigning king of plunger mute trombone, gave expression to all manner of emotion on "Caravan" and "God Bless the Child" and trumpeter Benny Bailey, an archetypical bebop player of tremendous power and rich imagination, balanced lush and lyrical balladry with flash and hair-raising frenzy on "Stella by Starlight."
Contrasts abounded during the evening: the stately open-horned artistry of trombonist Calvin Jones with Grey's plumber's helper growls and slurs; trumpeter Kenny Reed's more straightforward yet highly emotive playing and the high wire virtuosity of Bailey; Lisa Rich and bluesman Nap Turner singing with a country preacher's resonance about contrary women, loneliness and black-eyed peas.
A first-class rhythm team of pianist Gus Simms, bassist Tommy Cecil and drummer Keith Kilgo glued it all together with distinction and pulsing swing.