Story and Photos by James Walker, Jr.
Another capacity crowd gathered at Room 43 for the weekly Hyde Park Jazz
Society's Sunday evening Jazz set on an absolutely beautiful Chicago spring
evening. With the temperature at an unseasonable high of 85 degrees, jazz fans
arrived early to see Charlie Johnson and his star studded band of drummer Ernie
Adams, bassist Bill "Buddha" Dickens and trumpeter Victor Garcia. From the
outset, this promised to be one of this year's Hyde Park Jazz Society's
Charlie opened the set with one of this writer's favorite numbers, Horace
Silver's "Song For My Father," as Garcia took the first lead with his flugelhorn.
Adams didn't take long to launch full throttle on his drum kit as he normally
does. He's such a pleasure to see and hear perform. Arguably, he's one of
For those not having seen Dickens in action before, they were truly in for a
treat. On this initial number he was making his seven-string bass "moan and
cry." He's a phenomenon bassist with very few peers. These cats had the crowd
working overtime after the first song!!!!!
"Gravy Waltz" was their second number and again Garcia took the first lead.
Leader Johnson gave a glimpse into his ranging talent as he covered the entire
keyboard in a slow and easy manner, while Dickens stretched the limits of his
bass with those high guitar like notes. And he makes it look sooo easy. Garcia
hit some high octave notes at the conclusion of this song.
They concluded this three song sixty plus minute set with their arrangement of
"Little Sunflower." This number was perhaps Dickens most profound, as he simply took over during his extended solo as his band mates watched him
operate like a skilled surgeon. He went from break fast speed to a soft and slow
single picking during his improvised solo.
The second set opened with Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage." Johnson did Hancock
proud on this tune as he used every one of the 88s, demonstrating his ability
to equally use both right and rock solid left hand. This stunning display
resulted in a rousing ovation from the audience. Johnson continued his dominance
on "Some Day My Prince Will Come," this time displaying a soft touch while
Garcia's muted horn aptly complemented Johnson. Dickens played the high notes
with his seven string bass and again they left the crowd ecstatic.
Johnson invited several of his friends to the bandstand to vocalize a few
numbers at the conclusion of the second set. Margaret Murphy, Tammy McCann and
Natalie Yokley thrilled the crowd with some fine singing. Murphy and McCann
rendered verses of "Everyday I Sing The Blues" while Yokley brought this set to
climatic conclusion with a sparkling version of "Get There". This resulted in a
spontaneous standing ovation from this stunned crowd.
The final set consisted of an exceptional version of "Softly In The Morning
Sunrise" with all having one last opportunity to put their "prints" on this
exceptional night of jazz. Let's hope this aggregate does this again in the near
future. Johnson rarely performs in this type of forum yet he's truly one of
Chicago's most underrated and accomplished pianist.
Trumpeter Pharez Whitted assembles an outstanding group for May 30th Hyde Park
Jazz Society's set which will probably attract a large crowd this Holiday
Weekend. For details about future Society's events, refer to their website at www.hydeparkjazzsociety.org.