February 15 Live jazz was again the order of the day, when we were entertained by Lesley Byers and the Jazz Cats. The "Cats" can comprise of different permutations and personnel depending on the type of gig, tonight they became a duo consisting of Kyle Asche on guitar and Jake Vinsel playing bass. Lesley not only has a beautiful voice, but she is also a jazz natural, a singer who really understands what a jazz vocalist should be able to do. Kyle and Jake provide the perfect backing for Lesley's talents, their subtle jazz lines interweave so well with her vocals, which enhances the whole listening experience of the audience.
Lesley's repertoire is derived mostly from the Great American Songbook, although she is equally at home singing compositions by contemporary jazz musicians. The first number set the tone for the whole evening, a beautiful rendition of Howard Arlen's As Long as I Live, which was followed by another example of his writing in Come Rain or Come Shine. Irving Berlin took over the composing with his Cheek to Cheek, which featured Jake's solid bass lines coupled with Kyle's melodic guitar work. From this Moment On and an unseasonal rendition of Autumn Leaves proved extremely good vehicles for Lesley's energetic voice, followed by Just Squeeze Me, which was well received by the attentive audience. Cole Porter's Night and Day and The Frim-Fram Sauce, a 1945 song that was made famous by Nat King Cole, kept the procedings rolling along, before the first set came to a close with Undecided, which is also the title of yet another CD by the band - this number featured a rare scat vocal by Lesley, along with more excellent guitar and bass by the guys.
The second part of the evening started with some bebop in the shape of Wardell Gray's Twisted, which appears on Lesley's CD of the same name. A request from Society President Ian Tiele produced a wonderful version of Our Love is Here to Stay, which was followed by Straighten Up and Fly Right, another tune made famous by Nat King Cole. Bye Bye Blackbird, another tune from the Undecided CD came next, and this was followed by several more standards, including How High the Moon and You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To. Another audience request resulted in a rousing Route 66, which really motored along with another great vocal from Lesley. The evening's performance came to an end with I Love Being Here with You, a sentiment that was echoed by all those lucky enough to be in attendance. Check out the photographs here.
February 8 Society President Ian Tiele's presentation was titled "A Two Hour History of American Jazz." Ian covered the entire evolution of jazz and demonstrated its main styles, with music by James P. Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and others. We listened to several varieties of Dixieland, Boogie Woogie, Bebop, Stride, and even Fusion and Avant Garde. Some classic tunes, such as Coleman Hawkins' classic 1939 version of Body and Soul and Dave Brubeck's Take Five were heard along with some lesser-known, but equally great jazz like Charles Mingus' Tijuana Gift Shop and west coast bandleader Shorty Rogers' Coup De Graas.
February 1 Tonight was a "Free and Easy Night." Members brought along music from their own collections to play and discuss.
January 25 Tonight was a "Free and Easy Night." Members brought along music from their own collections to play and discuss.
January 18 Regular presenter John Moscinski's topic this evening was "Big Bands Today." John is an avid follower of live jazz, and often attends several gigs each week. The aim of his presentation was to show that big band jazz is still alive and kicking, both locally and across the USA. The local bands we heard included the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, the John Burnett Orchestra, and Bill O'Connell's Big Band. We also listened to tracks from the Latin-orientated Big 3 Palladium Orchestra, New York's Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, which represented big band jazz throughout the rest of the country.