For fans of America's great indigenous art form, last weekend wasn't just Memorial Day - it was Vintage Jazz Weekend.
Jazz in Annapolis once flourished at the Maryland Inn. But after the July 2003 demise of those shows, recounted local attorney Elana Byrd, wife of legendary jazz bassist Joe Byrd, venues such as the Reynolds Tavern and 49 West began to feature jazz. And after Elana Byrd met Larry Biederman, general manager of Loews Annapolis Hotel, Maryland's capital got another jazz outlet.
Biederman's father was a distributor for Fantasy records - one of Joe and Charlie Byrd's labels. Biederman knew their music well enough to offer Elana Byrd a green light to do whatever she wanted at the Powerhouse, which is separate from but owned by the hotel. Jazz has been featured there since January 2004.
Vintage Jazz Weekend began last Friday with clarinetist Bob Thulman and his band, Baltimore Jazz Factory, re-creating 1930s ragtime. The fun continued Saturday with Brooks Tegler's seven-piece Little Big Band offering 1940s swing.
The Powerhouse third floor is an ideal venue, with cabaret seating for 100. The show's cover charge was $20, and drinks were reasonably priced. Patrons can order light fare that is served at intermission.
Seven consummate musicians performed Saturday. Tegler's band opened with "My Blue Heaven" and moved on to the less-familiar Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" with Larry Eanet tickling keys so ingratiatingly that he made the electronic keyboard sound like a grand piano. Completing the great sound were Tom Mitchell on guitar, John Previti on bass, Scott Silbert on tenor sax, Vince McCool on trumpet and Marty Nau on clarinet and alto sax.
Highlights included "Air Mail Special," a tribute to Benny Goodman with Tegler and Previti setting a frenetic pace that everybody grooved to, and "When Lights Are Low," a tribute to Benny Carter featuring Silbert's mellow tenor sax and Eanet's keyboard artistry.
Other highs were an innocent, exciting "Sweet Georgia Brown" that was deconstructed and reconstructed into a jazz aria with Tegler's insistent beat triggering a primal response and McCool's trumpet solo making pulses race. These musicians are so together under Tegler that they reach an elegant blending. The respect these musicians share is evident when they listen intently to one another's solos.
The familiar "How High the Moon," as arranged by drummer Ray McKinley after Glenn Miller's disappearance, is a true classic. Sixty years later, Tegler's band played it so well, we were convinced that the old moon never rose higher. Classics were given the respect they deserve and something more - an unsuspected elegance that advanced each to a new realm. The mix of familiar and little-known tunes like the closing "Dizzy Atmosphere" added up to a memorable concert.
Tegler can be heard every Sunday night at Starland Cafe at 5125 MacArthur Boulevard NW in Washington. Call 202-244-9396 for information.
Those interested in hearing Tegler's big-band sound should mark their calendars for Oct. 1, when the Benny Goodman 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert with Tegler as Gene Krupa and Joe Midiri as Benny Goodman will be presented at Todd Performing Arts Center at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. For information on big-band concerts, e-mail email@example.com.
Future intimate jazz shows include The Frank and Joe Show at 49 West on June 11, "Jazz on the River - Joe Byrd Trio" in Shady Side on June 18 - reservations 410-267-0654. Other June events are O'Donel Levy on June 18 at 49 West and Jazz at the Powerhouse on June 24 and 25, with the Annapolis Jazz Jam. Reservations 410-269-0777, or for more information e-mail Elana Byrd at firstname.lastname@example.org.