May 26, 2008
While Halloween has long past, the witches were out at the Perimeter Institute on Friday night at the Black Hole Bistro. At least that's how the show started with jazz singer Adi Braun and sidekicks Joe Sealy (piano) and George Koller (bass).
The opener, Old Black Magic, cast an immediate spell. Sealy started soft and alluring, attracting full attention from the silent crowd with his spare, unrushed and subtle piano stylings. In comes Adi with a whisper and the band slowly builds the tune to a bright medium pitch -- warming up the crowd on their time and agenda.
On to Witchcraft, and the brew starts to thicken. Here Braun raised the temperature, punctuating her swinging sing with wild accents and letting loose with a full-fledged doo-wah scat solo. Koller just gets started with a wedged-in bass solo, struggling with a very short improvisational leash.
The sorcerers continued with two further contrasting musical statements. Old Devil Moon was a smooth and measured Latin with a cool and classy vibe, while Old Devil Called Love captured the bittersweet melancholy of helpless affection with a spare and haunting lament.
It was in the latter that Koller was finally let loose in a full-fledged bass solo, showcasing the full range and command of his instrument, followed by a spontaneous and enthusiastic burst of applause from the crowd. During his too-few developed solos throughout the evening, the bassist exuded fresh and innovative expressions -- strumming, stroking, bowing, plucking -- personality rare for his instrument.
By this time you are scratching your head trying to think of any other witchy tunes; then the spell is broken with a bouncy stride piano setting up Honey Suckle Rose. This tune showcased Sealy's superlative piano technique and instincts as he wove together a masterful combination of melodic lines and powerful block chords.
Braun then recaptured the limelight with an extended and unexpected whistle solo -- exhibiting an exceptional improvisatory technique and melodic development, in addition to a light sense of fun and play.
It was a bit of an accident, she explained, as a musical colleague encouraged her to develop a solo technique after hearing her whistle in the hall.
If there is one word that captures Braun's singing it would be control. It is clear she exhibits obvious care for every note she sings.
There is a precise development to her held notes in various ranges progressing from straight sound to vibrato with just the right timing, providing a satisfying arch and finish to individual notes and phrases. She also masterfully maintains tight emotional essence from song to song with impressive vocal range and expressive diversity.
With Besame Mucho it was the heart and soul of Spain captured in a deep, throaty flamenco. With Frim Fram Sauce it was a cheeky, sultry sensuality.
Braun likes a script and when Sealy set up a tune that deviated from what they had agreed he was snapped right back into line -- do it over.
It's a small complaint, given the beautiful artistry of the evening, but some of the best jazz starts with a script and then follows the fancy -- even magic -- of the moment.