Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: New Jazz Order at Jazz Winterlude

"This is jazz," Clint Ashlock told a reverent audience of approximately 125 Thursday at Polsky Theater. "It's OK- you can talk."

Ashlock was attempting to loosen up the crowd at the opening event of the Jazz Winterlude festival. I'm glad he failed. I've seen his New Jazz Order big band several times at Harling's. The dingy midtown bar attracts oblivious, obnoxious talkers. (I'm guilty as charged.)

Thursday's concert, consequently, was the first time I've truly heard New Jazz Order. It's excellent. Under Ashlock's direction, the collective works in jazz's mainstream without seeming overly hidebound. Ringers in the band included Ben and Matt Leifer, Hermon Mehari and Kerry Strayer. Interestingly, however, Steve Lambert (reviewed last week at Plastic Sax), was allotted the lion's share of solos.

Just as I felt as if I was hearing New Jazz Order for the first time, I was finally able to give the effort of featured vocalist Megan Birdsall my undivided attention. Until Thursday, I'd never completely grasped that she's an old-fashioned stylist in the tradition of June Christy and Anita O'Day.

Ashlock's objections aside, I was pleased that ninety percent of the polite audience was older than ninety percent of the musicians. I prefer the company of sober senior citizens to talkative midtown hipsters while appreciating a swinging big band.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)


Clint said...

Wow, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

And for the record, it wasn't the lack of talking, it was the excess of manners that threw me off. Manners?

Michael said...

Talking through a New Jazz Order performance is a Kansas City jazz tradition. I could never stop talking over NJO even when I was in the band.