A thoughtful program of 16 quieter, non-hackneyed and not melancholy harpsichord pieces.
Independence Day concert: The Mac Odom Band featuring The East Side Horns will present a free public performance of the best in rhythm & blues and funk at 6:30 p.m. July 4 on the plaza of the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Bring a lawn chair or a blanket for seating and enjoy a “cool” Fourth of July evening of music in historic downtown. Children’s activities will also be offered before the program. The concert will conclude at 8:45 p.m. with plenty of time to view the city’s fireworks display over New Bedford harbor scheduled for 9 p.m. The concert is sponsored by Fiber Optic Center Inc. and Whaling City Sound.
- NOW available on Etsy
- Eggplant Figure
- Mixed Media
Frank D’Rone: Swinging hard at 80
Howard Reich Arts critic
10:13 a.m. CDT, June 29, 2012
The veteran Chicago singer Frank D’Rone has been ill for awhile, so he was understandably concerned about how he would fare during his return to the stage this week at the Jazz Showcase.
D’Rone needn’t have worried. It’s no exaggeration to observe that – for reasons perhaps only he understands – he’s sounding as well as or better than he has in years, which is saying quite a lot. For even before D’Rone was forced to take a hiatus, he ranked among this city’s most accomplished jazz musicians, an uncommonly versatile singer-guitarist who decades ago established a national following for himself.
Playing before a packed house Thursday night at the Jazz Showcase to mark his recent 80th birthday, D’Rone produced a warmer vocal tone and a more relaxed approach to phrasing than one remembers from past work. His sense of pitch, too, was improved, the sometimes wobbly intonation he produced in recent years far rarer this time around.
Combine the improved status of D’Rone’s instrument and technique with the man’s enduring ability to interpret standard repertoire in unusual ways, and you had one of the most illuminating shows he has given Chicago in a long time.
The strength of D’Rone’s work was apparent from the opening lines of “Day In – Day Out,” a Frank Sinatra specialty (what wasn’t?) that D’Rone dispatched quite differently than the master. Where Sinatra brought ferocious rhythmic aggression to the piece, D’Rone took it nice and easy, eliding phrases and stretching lines in ways unique to him. The warmth of D’Rone’s baritone and depth of his sound made it instantly apparent that D’Rone was back in full force.
The singer turned Irving Berlin’s “How Deep is the Ocean” into a jazz aria, drawing upon his signature technique of pushing a long-held note up a pitch or two before settling back down to where it belongs. The poetry D’Rone found in “All the Things You Are” – in both his ballad-like opening and swing-time refrain – made the venerable Jerome Kern tune sound reborn.
Singing, however, is only part of what D’Rone does. When he picks up his guitar, he reminds listeners of the musicianship behind the vocals. His easy-breezy scat singing in “Day by Day” was rendered all the more effective by the unison passages he played on guitar. And only D’Rone could have accompanied himself so evocatively in his slow-and-dreamy account of “Make Someone Happy.”
It helped, of course, that he was joined by Chicago musicians keenly attuned to his swing-era aesthetic. Pianist Bobby Schiff deftly understated matters to keep the spotlight on the singer, while tenor saxophonist Greg Fishman added layers of melodic and harmonic complexity to the equation. Another Chicago saxophone virtuoso, Eric Schneider, happened to be in the house, and it wasn’t long before he was drafted onto the stage. The combination of Schneider’s dynamic alto work and Fishman’s elaborate commentary on tenor deepened the meaning of this music.
Perhaps the most remarkable passage of the evening came when the rhythm section fell silent and D’Rone and Fishman played alone together, the men riffing freely on “All the Things You Are.” All at once, listeners heard two formidable improvisers flying high without a net, the essence of the jazz musician’s art.
Toward the end of the first set, D’Rone took stock of what had happened and told the crowd, “I will be up to par soon.”
In fact, D’Rone is par, and others try to reach it.