New Year’s Eve Jazz at Spazio
Spazio was jumping when I arrived at 10 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. The popular jazz supper club, which is always quite picturesque, was decorated tastefully and a large celebration was taking place. An enthusiastic partying crowd was set to bring in 2003.
On the bandstand, singer Judy Chamberlain and her all-star group consisting of guitarist Al Viola, sax players Steve Wilkerson and Sam Most (each tripling on flute and clarinet), pianist Dave Moscoe, bassist Benjamin May and drummer Roy McCurdy, were entertaining the packed room in grand style. Rather than sticking to a strict format, Ms. Chamberlain throughout the long night displayed her ability to quickly read the crowd and give them what they wanted while still sticking to jazz. At various times the septet was broken down into smaller groups such as a two-horn drumerless instrumental quartet, Wilkerson showcased with the rhythm section and bassist May giving backup to Viola and Most.
The pacing was exciting, spontaneous and impressive. After a jazzy quartet set, Chamberlain sensed that the crowd wanted to dance so she performed one exciting up-tempo number after another, changing the grooves and rhythms and delivering each song at a highly passionate level. “Jump, Jive & Wail,” “Old Time Rock And Roll” (which worked surprisingly well as a romp), “Tequila,” “On Broadway,” “Straighten Up And Fly Right” and an instrumental “In The Mood” each gained a strong audience reaction. Wilkerson was particularly outstanding among the sidemen, honking and screaming like a 1950s R&B sax player but also throwing in some sheets of sound lines. The rhythm section (with some excellent playing from pianist Moscoe) was tight, alert and ready to switch gears on a moment’s notice. Chamberlain’s appealing, strong voice was an outstanding feature of many of the numbers, but she was just as significant as a bandleader, directing traffic and building the momentum until midnight struck and the dancers gathered to join in on “Auld Lang Syne,” followed by a rousing “God Bless America.”
The music (which also included “Orange Colored Sky,” “Crazy” “The Tender Trap” and “Devil May Care”) continued until 2 a.m., ending with a series of intimate ballads highlighted by “Deep Purple,” “And I Love You So” and “Smoke Gets In your Eyes” before finishing with Judy Chamberlain’s closing theme “I’ll Close My Eyes” which brought the five hour show to an end. It was a great way to bring in the New Year.
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