Richard Sanford and I had an excellent Jazz Day Out when we saw Richard Lopez Present “Boss Tenors, Live from Cbus” at Columbus Museum of Art on Sunday the 3rd (Photo by Richard Sanford). This satisfying concert was a prime example of the magic that can happen when five battle-tested pros can let loose and play some of their favorite material. In a setup inspired by 1920’s Harlem cutting sessions and modeled after the 1961 album Boss Tenors: Straight Ahead from Chicago featuring tenor saxophonists Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, this “showdown” pitted Columbus’ own tenors Michael Cox and Pete Mills against each other, complete with boxing gloves hanging from a mic stand. Of course, other than playful posing onstage, this match up was a completely friendly pairing of two longtime CJO colleagues, but everyone involved inspired each other to new heights. Keep reading for thoughts on the show and a few highlights for the week ahead!
The setlist was a fun mix of the Ammons/Stitt album and originals by the featured saxophonists. The show started with a set of the former – Broad-shouldered “The One Before This” was a picture-perfect Sunday stroll, with Cox and Mills showcasing their warm, “lived-in” tones and the rhythm section all adding their own solo flourishes. “Autumn Leaves” was a masterclass in classic tenor sax jazz, with the leaders trading elegant lines and effortlessly exciting solo passages. Of course, Lopez continued to hold his own with a focused, heavy and expansive solo. Cox’s “Three, Four Times,” a nod to Walt Weiskopf, had a modern theme with the tenors locked in, but also with plenty of swing on the spirited solo sections.
After Cox’s powerfully moving “Hymn,” the premiere of Mills’ jetsetting-inspired “Up To Go Down” was replete with passionate “tenor madness,” with a burning solo from the author and some sizzling solo breaks from drummer Zach Compston. Returning to standards, “There Is No Greater Love” had a huge, graceful swing that inspired the saxes to trade lines in multiple jamming iterations. Finale “Blues Up And Down” was one more old school burner, with blistering barbs from Cox and Mills and another hot round from the rhythm section, including a warm and athletic turn from bassist John Allen. What a show! Be sure to check out Lopez at the museum soon – his March 3rd concert will feature fellow keys master Dave Powers in a Piano Summit!
Shows To See This Week
The weekend ahead is looking strong – check out the Columbus Jazz Calendar for all of your options. Alongside the Anthony Stanco Ensemble at Dick’s Den, highlights for Friday, February 8th include (click links for more info) Beautyofmyland at Brothers Drake, Blackout Jazz Night: Mark Hampton & the Jazz Experience at Notes, and FLIPPO: “Better Days Ahead – The Music of Pat Metheny” at Natalie’s. On Saturday, February 9th, seize the opportunity to see future stars for FREE! The Columbus City Schools JazzFest runs from 9:30am to 4pm at Lincoln Theatre – full details here. Before Valentine’s Day Thursday – our rundown of your jazz options is here – Wednesday, February 13th will also be a big night for jazz. Besides great locally-based options, NYC Subway YouTube phenomenons Moon Hooch return to Woodlands Tavern, with opening assistance from Northeast Ohio natives and new Ropeadope Records signees Nathan-Paul & The Admirables (more details here), and feisty melting pot Davina & The Vagabonds return to Natalie’s (more details here). Get out there and enjoy!
Have a great week!