Appearing @ Cafe Noctambulo
Thursday, July 2nd 8pm
Vocals: Ken Greves
Piano: Frank Ponzio
Bass: Saadi Zain
Drums: Jacob Melchior
Doors open 7PM
$20 Music Cover +
$20 Food & Beverage Minimum
178 Second Avenue @ 12th Street
New York NY 10003
Reservations strongly suggested
Tickets & Info
Performing Music From His New CD
|2015 has the utterly unique distinction of being the 100th anniversary of the births of the emperor and empress of American vocal transcendence, Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday; as well as the magnificent composer, lyricist and arranger Billy Strayhorn – all of whom cast their luminescence upon the enchanting vocalist Ken Greves. While his new album Night People (on the Jazz Cat label) is by no means conceived as a direct tribute album to any of them, the influence and impact they have had upon Ken and all interpreters of classic songs and profound lyrics is on brilliant display throughout this brilliant album.|
While there are a good number of songs contained here that have been blessed by the spectacular interpretive skills of both the Chairman and Lady Day, the most glowing aspect of their influence on Ken is in the manner in which he approaches the lyrics to portray their enthralling stories in his own most appealing way. And this is the purest and most appropriate form of tribute that could be offered to them.
For many singers of songs, the lyrics are a means to an end in the quest to express the beauty of the music in the individualistic voice of the singer. For Ken, the lyrics are the jewel for which the music provides the beautiful setting. This is not to say that sheer musicality does not play a major part in this music. Ken’s approach in both the arrangements and the manner in which he blends his superb vocal artistry with his musicians is of the highest order, fully conceived within the concept of synergy that is essential to the greatest tradition of jazz.
The extraordinary musicians that join him here – his musical director Frank Ponzio (who also shares the arranging credits with Ken) on piano, Peter Donovan on bass and drummer Vito Lesczak – are not only consummate musicians, but are fully in command of the form of interplay and symbiotic inventiveness that are essential to expressing this music at its highest potential.
This is not simply a piano trio backing a vocalist. The methodology here is in the tradition forged by the incomparable Betty Carter, where the vocalist leads the ensemble in the same manner as an instrumentalist, demanding the same level of inspiration and imagination needed to stimulate the soloist to the greatest heights of creativity.
Ponzio is a master, perfectly framing the vocals, embellishing and coloring, and soloing totally within the framework, without ever allowing his virtuosity to be a distraction. Donovan’s bass provides a powerful core – deeply wooded, vividly resonant and impeccable in his time, deftly blending arco and pizzicato stylings. The drumming of Lesczak is extremely tasteful, highly inventive and maintains a vibrant heartbeat whether swinging in a fixed groove or floating freely in the rubato context that is often at play within the music.
Another aspect of the Sinatra connection is in the great man’s role in defining/refining the concept album. For Night People is truly a concept album in the essence of its message.
“Night People is an homage to my early youthful days, when I haunted and habituated the night scenes and nightscapes searching for the unnamable thing or experience. This divine restlessness was always seeking newness, satisfaction, release, and ultimately peace.”
With that in mind, the 15 compositions contained in the 14 tracks – each of them a uniquely crafted and visceral short story in itself – are actually an anthology with a common thread woven together into a cinematic landscape. While that deeply emotional setting often speaks of loss and pain, the feelings evoked are not somber or downbeat, but rather full of realization and wisdom, uplifting in their objective recognition and embracing of Truth.
Ken’s milieu is The Great American Songbook – this is his third album exploring that fertile territory, following The Face of My Love and Vintage & Rare, The Songs of Harold Arlen, Vol. 1 – and although these songs are familiar and well-loved, Ken follows the great tradition of vocal interpretation by making them all his own. Part of this is through the splendid arrangements that perfectly frame his delightful voice, impeccable phrasing and free-spirited style; but even more is due to the manner in which he focuses upon the poetry of the lyrics, offering them with an eloquence that makes the listener feel they’re hearing them for the very first time.
This is stunningly apparent on Strayhorn’s Lush Life, where Ken presents the exquisite aria’s opening section as a recitative, driving those resplendent phrases home with visceral poignancy. For Ken, the lyricists are always equal partners with the composers. Fran Landesman’s potent words are coupled with Tommy Wolf and Bob Dorough respectively on the exotic, dreamlike Night People and the sinuously dramaticSmall Day Tomorrow. Dorothy Parker puts aside her acerbic wit in favor of wistful lovingness on Ralph Rainger’s I Wished on the Moon, given a unique Latin flavor here.
Matt Dennis’ heartbreakingly gorgeous Angel Eyes is transformed into a noirish soulful blues, giving Earl K. Brent’s lyrics a sharper edge. Blue is the color for a pair of bar room classics – Marvin Fischer and Jack Segal's moody I Keep Goin’ Back to Joe’s and the Sinatra icon by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) which not only echoes that 3am closing-the-bar aura, but conveys a palpable sense of something unexpected about to happen on the ride home.
While beauteous balladry is a primary flavor on this album, it’s not the cry-in-your-beer sort, but rather compelling narratives that captivate the listener with their fascinating tales – stylishly constructed and gracefully delivered. The delicacy of Victor Young’s and Sam Lewis’ Street of Dreams; the buoyantly floating Midnight Sun by Lionel Hampton, Sonny Burke and Johnny Mercer; Matt Dennis, Tom Adair and the Dorsey Brothers’ touching The Night We Called It a Day; and the edgy, angular bolero-ish Moon and Sandby Alec Wilder, Morty Palitz and William Engvick are all thoroughly beguiling examples of the form.
On a different note, Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh’s Let Me Down Easy is spiced with a jaunty Brazilian flavor; and Ken is playfully spirited on Harry Woods’ What A Little Moonlight Can Do.
This extraordinary album closes with a Cy Coleman/Joseph McCarthy medley ofEarly Morning Blues melding into the celebratory anthem built on a slow ostinato, Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’ – a most fitting ending for this intriguing experience that makes one hungry for the next step in Ken Greves’ journey.
Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services
Ph: 845-986-1677 / email@example.com