In The News
Judy Chamberlain Quintet at Spazio
by Scott Yanow
LA Jazz Scene
Judy Chamberlain must be channeling Miles Davis. She plays to the talents of her musicians, offering them an exciting environment in which to shine. There are no set lists. No rehearsals, no discussions. No calling out of keys, or counting off tempos. Head arrangements emanate from the bandstand as if by magic. Sometimes Chamberlain simply takes the pickup, singing a line or a riff, her musicians instantly following her subtle cues. It’s a challenge, and one they clearly enjoy.
At a Chamberlain performance, it’s hard to tell who’s having more fun, the musicians or the audience. Other emotions surface as well, sometimes unexpectedly. Chamberlain is a skilled and sensitive tour guide, a real jazz singer who uses texture and color to weave a highly entertaining spell.
The bandleader recently brought her brand of magic to Spazio, joined by pianist Tony Campodonico, sax/clarinet doubler Terry Harrington, drummer Ramon Banda and longtime associate Benjamin May on bass for a night of standards and obscurities. Cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, Chamberlain’s lovely voice, wide range and versatile repertoire made for a memorable night of music.
On this particular evening, her selections included such songs as “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “Body And Soul,” “Brazil,” “The Joint Is Jumping,” “A Night In Tunisia,” “Putting On The Ritz,” “La Vie En Rose,” the Barry Manilow/Johnny Mercer ballad “When October Goes” and a few dozen other selections. The music, drawn from most of the past nine decades, always swung with Chamberlain’s impeccable time and expressive phrasing.
Terry Harrington, who sometimes sounded like Zoot Sims on tenor, was equally fluent on clarinet. The rhythm section was tight and intuitive with bassist May contributing bowed bass solos that worked particularly well on “Summertime” and “Stairway To The Stars.” Directing the whole show was Ms. Chamberlain, who always paid close attention to keeping the momentum moving. She expertly varied tempos, moods and grooves, picking out songs spontaneously and singing up a storm.
Spazio has evolved into Southern California’s top jazz supper club and Judy Chamberlain is one of the finest singers around. Both should be seen often.