In a belated opening of the Charlin Jazz Society concert season Saturday night at Temple Sinai, six artists, several of whom met for the first time that evening, brought off a program of varying formats with a consistently high standard of performance.
An opening set of instrumentals by a quartet under the leadership of pianist Roland Hanna touched on each of the concert's themes, "Bop, Blues and Ballads." It included the exotica of "Night in Tunisia," the now-caressing and now-playfully erotic tenor saxophone of Mickey Fields on "I Can't Get Started," and "All Blues," one arresting feature of which was bassist Ed Howard's artful mix of hummingbird buzz and deep, thunderous concussions that could have been the tread of a mastodon.
Hanna's ability to build with monkish economy a solo that reaches veritable cathedrals of musical riches--constructed of elements as disparate as deep, wobbling blues, flower-petal-soft impressionism and stormy 10-fingered virtuosity--puts him in a very rare class of pianists. Of course, one knows the session will cook when one spies veteran drummer George (Dude) Brown on the bandstand, and on this particular occasion he was in top form as he backed the several idioms mentioned as well as some fierce "outside" blowing by Fields on tenor and flute.
Second-set vocalist Marion Cowings performed in the manner of the best jazz singers, as a horn, giving voice to flowing sax-like legato, or ripping off biting staccato that could have been from a trumpet's bell. He also has a good sense of time that he expressed in subtle movement as well as in an ability to vocally ride anywhere he chose around the ground beat.
Accompanied by the quartet, Cowings delivered, for example, scat on Charlie Parker lines, and his own lyrics on Quincy Jones' "Quintessence," Tadd Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now" and a Cole Porter rumba to boot. An unscheduled duo on a Miles Davis blues by Cowings and Kim Shaw, with whom he regularly works, allowed both singers to stretch out in vocalise that was full of dynamics and that swung to beat the band.