The Sidney Bechet Society, Ltd
An Exciting Jam Session
At The Lighthouse
111 East 59th Street
Wycliffe Gordon, Trombone, Vocals, Leader
Randy Sandke, Trumpet
Matthew Rybicki, Bass
Kurt Stockdale, Bass
Doug Wamble, Guitar, Vocals
Oscar Perez, Piano
(Guest Drummer), Drums
Yvette Spears, Vocals
Jared Grimes, Tap Dancer
Frankie Clemente, Tap Dancer
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 22, 2005
With authentic New Orleans Blues and Swing, Wycliffe Gordon, on vocals and trombone, led a jam session for the Sidney Bechet Society tonight, and he brought exceptional talent with him. As it happened, I had just watched a documentary tribute to Sidney Bechet on television, and, although Bechet played saxophone (Tonight Kurt Stockdale was on sax) Wycliffe Gordon was clearly the leader of his eclectic ensemble of musicians and performers, including two young men, both talented tap dancers in a group called, The Young Hoofers.
On the Sunny Side of the Street opened the two-set program, and Wycliffe sang and played trombone. He offered generous solos to his band, and Wycliffe turned out to have a “Jazz Tenor” exuberant vocal range, one with warmth and persona. Wycliffe has a commanding onstage presence, whether on tantalizing trombone or vivacious vocals. Another song about New Orleans was next, and the versatile pianist, Oscar Perez joined Matthew Rybicki on bass, which doubled as enhanced percussion, with Rybicki sassily slapping the wooden bass. A blended, bluesy work followed, Bechet’s Fantasy, with the drum rolls of a New Orleans marching band.
It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing) brought out little Frankie Clemente (who looked about six to eight years old) in shorts and tap shoes, and he kicked and shuffled and stood on his heels, all the while tapping away in front of the buoyant band. Following this percussive and pulsating piece, Yvette Spears, vocalist extraordinaire, sultry and soulful, sang about New Orleans, with a deep, earthy range, smooth as silk. What Is This Thing Called Love? was performed with Foxtrot rhythms, and Rande Sandke was featured on towering trumpet. Mrs. Cottontail and Hot Chocolate were presented with full brass and hot swing. Matthew Rybicki on bass went wild with rhythm, and Wycliffe Gordon led numerous refrains.
After intermission, Sweet Georgia Brown played through this functional hall, with its anti-club ambiance, so jubilantly that one could have imagined we were seated in Blue Note or Iridium. Jared Grimes, like Frankie Clemente a member of The Young Hoofers, but older and more professionally ready for the stage, created the illusion that he was a one-man percussive band, with that rhythm coming from his two tapping feet, not from a set of sticks and drums. Oscar Perez, Doug Wamble, and Kurt Stockdale all took generous solos, before this piece concluded, and even Frankie Clemente was invited back to make it a tap duo extravaganza.
Memphis Blues, by WC Handy, inspired vocals from Doug Wamble and Wycliffe Gordon, while they doubled on guitar and trombone. Basin Street Blues, a terrific slow swing, over steady bass and metal rims of drums, built in improvisational style and vibrancy. Wycliffe sang once more with scintillating scat, and he reinvigorated the Bechet Society fans with soul and song. Once again, Yvette Spears, attractive and blessed with a voice of dripping honey, sang two songs, combined with Wycliffe’s tempting trombone.
Caravan, the finale, found Wycliffe on didgeridoo, an extra-long wooden horn, shaped like a hollow pole, and he used exotic, vocal-horn effects, before the guest drummer went wild. Randy Sandke, the seasoned and sensational trumpet player, joined Kurt Stockdale and a young, guest sax player, as well as Doug Wamble on guitar, for an atonal riff, before piano, bass, and percussion, joined by tap dancers, filled the expansive hall with wanton jazz, with Wycliffe seizing the theme, a one-man caravan of music.
Wycliffe Gordon and Bechet Society Performers
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower