Sunday, September 30, 2018
Concert Review: Mezzo String at Polsky Theatre
Ryan Lee conducted a disheartening exercise at Mezzo String’s free noontime concert at Polsky Theatre on Tuesday, September 25. Only a few hands went up when the bandleader asked which members of the audience of almost 100 were younger than 30. A few more responded when asked if they were younger than 40. About a dozen additional people acknowledged that they were in their forties. Even though it’s held on the campus of Johnson County Community College, the Jazz Series attracts retirees rather than students.
And truth be told, Mezzo String’s highly refined chamber jazz is more likely to appeal to people with naturally gray hair than to students who opt to dye their hair purple. Lee, one of Kansas City’s most dynamic drummers, seamlessly meshes jazz musicians and a string quartet in Mezzo String. While he and his bandmates are young, their cultivated sound never threatened to unsettle even the most conservative old-timers in the audience. Every one of the old folks was probably already familiar with the melodies on interpretations of “Lush Life” and “My One and Only Love.” A reading of the former standard served as a vehicle for trumpeter Nate Nall, while the later selection was played by the ensemble’s string quartet and bassist Ben Leifer.
The tone of two or three original compositions matched the genteel sensibility. Lee insisted that the three soloists “go wild” on an interpretation of Joe Locke’s “Her Sanctuary.” The mandate pushed the straight-laced pianist Roger Wilder out of his comfort zone to excellent effect and allowed Nall and violinist Coleen Dieker to do what comes naturally to them. Lee noted that he’d heard and participated in “a lot of great concerts” at Polsky Theatre. He can add last week’s distinguished show to that list.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)