REUNION JAZZ COMBO – Live at BB’s
written by Judy Brady
Reunions, by nature, compel the sharing of great stories and the triggering of powerful memories. The “Reunion Jazz & Blues” concert re-awakens personal and musical connections (including a Madison-area link) and that began over forty years ago through the performance of music that is, without cliché, timeless.
Here is the tale: In 1965, four guys attending Beloit College started a band to play jazz and blues through a mutual attraction to classics penned by the likes of Hoagy Carmichael as well as fusion styles from Herbie Hancock. After graduation and the awareness of “real life” issues (jobs, money, war), the friends kept in close contact and found ways to play together when they could get their respective geographies in order. For example, singer/pianist Don Carson earned an MBA, but also sang and toured internationally with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Bassist J. Michael Kearsey lives in the Pacific Northwest and has composed and released two New Age records. Drummer Mike Scavotto specializes in healthcare management, and saxophonist Bob Corbit remains active in the Madison music scene (you may have seen his “signature” performance move of playing two reeds at one time). So, the gigs kept coming, and the band kept playing, even hitting the festival circuit in Jamaica a few years ago and playing at BB’s Jazz and Blues club in St. Louis.
Here is the music: The BB’s gig became the latest live CD produced by the Reunion Jazz Combo. Truly, the quartet plays with an easy and confident familiarity of each others’ craft. While it may not be the most edgy record, the set list demonstrates a healthy range of influences and an engaging reinterpretation of some standard classics and original tunes. Miles Davis’s sassy “All Blues” begins with a sparse piano intro and builds momentum through Corbit, who seems to capture the essence of the song’s subtle ingenuity. “Nussonge,” composed by Kearsey and Carson, shifts the set toward a jazz/rock groove, and deftly prepares the audience for a great cover of “Let It Be.” The show ends with a zesty romp through Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.” Other highlights throughout the set include “Georgia On My Mind” and Eddie Harris’s “Cold Duck Time.”