Sunday, January 10, 2016

Concert Review: Mike Herrera, Ernest Melton and Houston Smith at the Blue Room

I often cringe when I hear the opening strains of “In a Sentimental Mood.”  The chestnut is played far too often.

Houston Smith’s statement on the Duke Ellington standard at the Blue Room last Monday, however, transcended cliché.  With accompaniment by pianist Everett Freeman, bassist James Ward and drummer John Kizilarmut, the 18-year-old dazzled on the familiar tune.

Smith is attending the Berklee College of Music.  He was featured alongside the teenage Ernest Melton and the relative veteran Mike Herrera at the “Sax Showcase.”  An audience of about 50 attended the first set.

Melton chose “Ruby, My Dear” as his feature ballad.  His slightly sour and willfully course tenor playing recalled John Coltrane's work on his seminal 1957 collaboration with Thelonious Monk.  Herrera opted for a rendition of “All the Things You Are” to highlight his more refined approach. 

The marked contrasts between the three intriguing saxophonists served as yet another persuasive example of the artistic vitality of the Kansas City jazz scene.

(Original image of Herrera, Ward, Melton, Houston and Kizilarmut, left to right, by Plastic Sax.)

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