There have been many exceptional performances at Michael D's Jazz Club, and a few have gone beyond exceptional, entering the rarefied realm of what is known in jazz circles as "Smokin' " or musically "tearing up the joint" On June 14th. Mitch Holder, Ray Pizzi, Domenic Genova and Steve Barnes joined a select group that have made history in this fine venue. (see reviews of Nancy Kelly, Carl Saunders, Mike Melvoin).
To me the word swing connotes a manner of playing that generates excitement or moves the listener emotionally and this Quartet swung like a pendulum at warp speed.
Steve Barnes has a great hi-hat sound that meshed beautifully with this ensemble, always on time and ready for the torrid solos of the dynamic duo of Pizzi and Holder.
Whether it's a tender ballad or a blistering up tempo, Ray Pizzi cooks on all four burners. Pizzi has a macho style that is pure muscle, conversely his ballad style is tender and soulful. His solo on "Nancy" was pure unadulterated romance emanating from a Tenor Saxophone, and that is artistry in its highest form. This woodwind giant coaxes every possible variation on a theme out of that horn and then some. From top to bottom on his horn Ray Pizzi is intimate with every aspect of it and as a result it can be a lady of refinement or an audacious brassy dame and he treats each with respect and charm. It was beauty created spontaneously and its magic was not lost on the brains and visceras of the listener.
Masterfully constructed choruses define Mitch Holder. His comping to soloists is unparalleled. Holder's solo on "Willow Weep For Me" and "Darn That Dream" showcased his immense talent beautifully. Slow and languorous blues filled the room and not a glass was heard to clink and the forks stopped in mid air. Contrawise his bop inspired outpourings engendered excitement in the assembled hipsters who thunderously applauded every chorus. Mitch Holder is the master of his instrument and every note that is played is reflective of his love for the Guitar.
Domenic Genova, like Tadd Dameron, is a musician whose courtly manner and pleasing personality are reflected in his music. His Bass sound is remarkable and his improvisation is an example of the adage that a poet is born not made, On the exchanges Genova was both witty and explosive in his responses. He is among the top tier of "wood men" in jazz.
Steve Barnes contributed mightily by being responsive to the mood of the music. His presence was a most pleasing addition to this night of prime time jazz.
Ray Pizzi, the consummate homme d'esprit and ever the showman, left the crowd with this bon mot: "This is your first gig as an audience, right?"
This performance was one of those nights that become legendary. I am glad I was there.