Thursday, Jan. 31, local Jazz combo Red, Hot and Blue hit the stage for a killer performance at 10 Depot Restaurant.
This is the kind of band that is a pleasure to review. Every band member is a highly skilled and professional musician. Each member shows up ready to play and gets right to it.
Red, Hot and Blue features Karen Lee on vocals and some percussion, John Carrington filling in for Teun Fetz on the drum kit, Matt Cooper on piano, Greg Johnson on sax and Alan Feves on upright bass.
The band started out with a cool jazz instrumental with each player showing their extraordinary chops. The lovely Karen Lee, tastefully draped in black from head to foot, took the stage and opened with “Exactly Like You.”
Pound for pound, Karen Lee is the best vocalist in the valley. I know of no other singer with her phrasing and dynamics.
Her vocals on everything from her jazzified “Call it Stormy Monday” to “It Don’t Mean a Thing” are as fresh and original as dawn at West Eagle Meadows. She may specialize in jazz but I have a pretty good idea Lee can sing anything you put in front of her. Lee’s humorous rendition of “Don’t You Feel My Leg” sparked a female audience member to an impromptu dance accompaniment.
As good as Karen Lee is, the rest of the band is just as astounding. These musicians are so in tune with each other that I never heard them step on each other’s lines.
Each musician but the drummer is given a lot of solo space and each musician is a tasteful enough player that they don’t overdo it. Each solo I heard was compact and frankly, perfect.
It’s rare to find a musician whose ego allows space for other members of the band. A group of musicians without egos is a miracle.
EOU professor Matt Cooper, who I’m pretty sure is Dr. House on the lam, handles the piano with great sensitivity. Every solo he plays is a miniature masterpiece. Cooper never seems to be reaching for notes or ideas. The man holds an eternal spring of music inside him.
Greg Johnson on sax is another case in point. I can easily get soured on too much sax, particularly in a band without a guitarist. Johnson has excellent control over his instrument, never too loud or too soft and his playing has a smoky, bourbon-like flavor to it.
Alan Feves on upright bass is phenomenal. The tones Feves coaxes from his instrument are otherworldly and far more complex than the notes you get from a Jazz Bass or P-bass.
I’m a sucker for hearing an upright bass and I have no idea why every bass player doesn’t suck it up, learn how to play and mike one.
The group’s regular drummer, EOU’s Teun Fetz, had to sit out this performance because of a previous engagement. Fetz’s shoes were ably filled by John Carrington, another excellent musician. In fact, my only complaint is that Carrington didn’t get much in the way of solo time.
I’ve always felt jazz drummers are the only drummers who know how to play a drum solo and keep it interesting for more than 15 seconds. In the future I hope to hear Carrington or Fetz get chance to indulge themselves–or me!
Even without a guitarist, this is one of all-time favorite bands. These people love music and it shows.
I suspect they would play with the same intensity for 10 people as they would for a thousand. Also, they have enough self- respect not to launch into “Billie Jean” just to fill up the dance floor and feel better about themselves.
Red, Hot and Blue is highly recommended, especially for people who love music for its own sake.