By The Time I Get To Phoenix…

Jazz Buddies,

Well, it took a while, but I finally made it to Phoenix, Arizona!!!  Not just for a flight layover, but to check out the legendary drummer Lewis Nash’s eponymous Jazz venue’s 10th anniversary celebration!  Saturday’s celebration at The Nash featured Lewis’s all-star quintet playing two swingin’ sets: Jeremy Pelt (tr), Jimmy Greene (ts/ss), Renee Rosnes (p), and Peter Washington (b), and Lewis Nash (d).

The 116-seat venue (which reminds me of Jazz Bakery’s old Culver City, CA, digs) was packed for the 7:00 P.M. set, and nearly packed for the 9:15 P.M. set.  And the cheerful and enthusiastic crowd greatly appreciated the brilliant artistry, musicianship, and creativity on full display by Lewis, a Phoenix native, and his cohorts.

A wonderful video tribute kicked off both sets with several Jazz luminaries paying homage and respect to Mr. Nash, the staff, and the legion of volunteers who have made The Nash a notable Jazz venue over these past 10 years.  Those musicians expressing well-wishes, all of whom have appeared at the Nash, included: Charles McPherson, George Cables, Terell Stafford, Benny Green, Christian McBride, Wycliffe  Gordon, Nat Reeves, and Bill Cunliffe.

It was later noted that when Lewis initially informed his long-time friend, Wynton Marsalis, of his plans, Marsalis happily agreed to appear and perform at The Nash’s opening on October 20, 2012. (Todd Barkan, then Programming Director at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at JALC, emceed.)

Cory Weeds, the Vancouver-based saxophone player, Cellar Live label owner/record producer, and former Jazz club owner, was also in attendance.

I also had the distinct pleasure of sitting next to Lewis’s younger sister, Regina, during the second set.  He asked her if she remembered the time years back when she, their parents, and their 99-year-old grandmother sat in the front row for a performance at The Nash.  Regina smiled in agreement.  Lewis then recounted that a 101-year old gentleman in attendance was trying to charm their grandmother!  Even going as far as attending Sunday services at her church soon after; she failed to show up that Sunday…

The evening’s set lists (composers) played by the group comprised:

First Set

  • Teddy (Bobby Hutcherson)
  • Rouge (John Lewis)
  • E Preciso Perdoar (One Must Forgive) (Alcivando Luz & Carlos Coqueijo) 
  • Tin Tin Deo (Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo) (trio)
  • You Taught My Heart To Sing (McCoy Tyner & lyrics by Sammy Chan) (vocal)
  • The Highest Mountain (Clifford Mountain)
  • Ain’t That Peculiar (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)

Second Set

  • Ellington’s Stray Horn (Jimmy Heath)
  • Eronel (Thelonious Monk)
  • Arioso (James Williams)
  • Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You (Marvin Fisher & Jack Segal) (vocal) 
  • From Here To A Star (Renee Rosnes)
  • New York Attitude (Kenny Barron)
  • Ain’t That Peculiar (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles)

Not surprisingly, each member of the group brought their ‘A’ game, dazzling the audience with amazing chops, supreme technique, and clever improvisation, in the process garnering exuberant applause and soulful “Amens!” from the congregation… :v)

There were many instances throughout both sets when concluding an especially impressive extended solo, the band member symbolically ‘dropped the mic’, as if to inquire “Any questions?” Nope, none here!

For his part, Lewis’ soloing, trading fours, and comping, which clearly distinguish his playing from others and highlight his greatness throughout generations, was a joy to witness in person.  And his vocal chops on two ballads were a joy to behold…  Look out Grady, Johnny, and Luther!!!

The group closed out both sets with soulful renditions of the 1960’s classic “Ain’t That Peculiar” tune made famous by Marvin Gaye!

Overall, this was a grand, festive, and unforgettable occasion of which I was glad to be a part.  I eagerly look forward to The Nash’s 20th anniversary…

My quick romp to Phoenix wrapped up a month of great local Jazz in the “DMV”:

  • 10/1: Christian Sands Quartet (Keystone Korner)
  • 10/6: Eddie Palmieri Quintet (Blues Alley)
  • 10/14: Cyrus Chestnut & Affirmation (Keystone Korner)
  • 10/16: Chucho Valdés & Yoruban Orchestra (Kennedy Center)
  • 10/17: Shawn Purcell Quintet (Blues Alley)
  • 10/19: Paul Carr Quartet (Blues Alley)
  • 10/23: Bill Charlap Trio (Keystone Korner)
  • 10/28: Butch Warren Tribute Concert (Westminster Presbyterian Church)
  • 10/29: Lewis Nash All-Stars (The Nash)
  • 10/30: Arturo Sandoval Quintet (Blues Alley) (Canceled due to fire damage)

Please continue to support “live” Jazz!