At first glance, it might seem that the Norman Connors Starship Orchestra chose an unlikely place to land this week: Charlie's in Georgetown.
After all, the club generally caters to an older jazz audience, the kind of crowd more attuned to the sophisticated swing of, say, Charlie Byrd or Mel Torme' than the churning rhythms of a fusion sextet. Still, there were many moments last night when the Orchestra seemed right at home.
A drummer of both power and sensitivity, Connors wisely kept electric excursions to a minimum. Instead, he showcased the talents of his young charges in a set that included several jazz standards.
Particularly impressive were saxaphonist Marion Meadows and trumpeter Duke Jones, although their promise wasn't evident until the group had disposed of a shapeless introductory piece and turned to a lovely version of John Coltrane's "Naima." Here, Meadows alternately displayed both lyricism and force. Later, when he teamed up with Jones on soprano saxophone and fluegelhorn, respectively, the collaboration occasionally suggested the inspired recordings by Red Rodney and Ira Sullivan.
The evening's highlight, though, was unquestionably the tunes sung by vocalist "Mr. T.C." Although he looks to be in his twenties, "T.C." is well-versed in the art of jazz song. At different times, his baritone recalled the blues balladry of Joe Williams, the bop vocalese of Eddie Jefferson and the other-worldly yodeling of Leon Thomas. When "T.C." sang, it was jazz for all seasons and tastes.
The Orchestra performs through Sunday.