Unusual weather we’re having.
Sunday morning we were in shirtsleeves, but the afternoon turned chilly and I had to put on a sweater. A perfect metaphor for the concert at the Unitarian Universalist Church by the vocal jazz group Down 4 The Count, which was very hot and also very cool.
Vocal jazz is just a hoot, the close harmonies, rhythmic distortions and wordplay forming a creatively kaleidoscopic entity that is a joy to behold when performed well.
And this group is good. Comprised of Colleen Keene, who does most of the arranging and is capable of freakishly high soprano notes; Christine Tavares, a well-known fixture on the musical scene; Penny Watson, the self-described “chick in the middle”; Jason Lingle, singer and percussionist; and new member Eric Bradley, the ensemble has talent to burn.
Their program the other day was suitably eclectic. It featured jazz classics like Duke Ellington’s “Whirlybird” and “Don’t Get Around Much Any More” and Count Basie’s “Splanky,” standards like “Hernando’s Hideaway” and Cole Porter’s “It’s Alright With Me” (in the zippy Swingle Singers arrangement), as well as more modern, contemporary and even original stuff, along with a few novelties.
Keene’s ode to San Luis Obispo, “I’m Leaving SLO,” was a highlight, as was the lovely Randy Newman ballad “When She Loved Me” from “Toy Story 2,” the group’s take on the classic “Bernie’s Tune” and their namesake song. Novelties included the opener, a version of the “Pink Panther” theme featuring Lingle on snare drum; “Being Green” performed by a remarkably talented group of hand puppets, and the hit of the afternoon, “Can’t Get Abducted E.T. Don’t Dig Me Blues.” The group sprouted antennae and Bradley donned a hat made out of tin foil; you probably had to be there.
The time passed quickly, and this was the ideal church concert: intimate, unique and enjoyable. Area churches add much to our local concert scene. The next event on the Unitarian Universalist Church’s series features internationally renowned countertenor Brian Asawa on March 17.
Vocal jazz is big around here, with Christine Guter’s excellent and thriving program at Bob Cole Conservatory maybe the gold standard and Tom Dustman doing great stuff at Long Beach City College and with his group Beachfront Property for a long time. Down 4 The Count adds to that impressive list in impressive fashion, and their concerts are worth seeking out.
It may have been cold outside, but inside the church things were sunny and breezy.
And very cool.