Frank Russell

Regal Theater, Chicago, IL
Sept. 15, 2010

Frank Russell

Frank Russell

Review and photos by James Walker, Jr., Copyright 2010

Veteran bassist Frank Russell and his bandmates of guitarist Peter Lerner, keyboardist Greg Spero, and drummer Charles "Rick" Heath, returned to the Regal for an outstanding night of "smokin" jazz. This group had previously appeared at this Rick Heath produced Wednesday set earlier in the summer during one of our rain storms. No such problem on this occasion as the only storm present was these four gentlemen breezing through the Regal with two sets that had those in attendance longing for more upon their completion.

Heath launched this series this summer but it continues to be one of the Southside's best kept secrets and surprise. Each week, he books some of the city's finest musicians at this fabled theater yet only sparse crowds have supported his valiant effort to keep jazz alive on the Southside.

Nevertheless, those in attendance last week were very appreciative of the outstanding effort of Russell's group as he opened up the first set strumming his accoustic bass guitar to the sounds of "Caravan." It didn't take Lerner long to warm up with a nice extended solo of this, one of Duke Ellington's classic numbers. Russell got the max with this flamenco sound as Heath finished the number with rapid fire action on his drum kit.

Throughout this evening, Russell demonstrated his versatility by using three distinctly different basses. On several occasions, he brought out his five string bass that allowed him to produce a "high C" sound on such numbers like "Georgy Porgy" and Stanley Clarke's "Quiet Afternoon." It was on the later number that Russell and Lerner closed out the first set with an infectious "call and response" segment that received a rousing ovation from the audience. These two have played together for years and appear to really enjoy their interaction.

Other first set highlights included Horace Sliver's "Senior Blues" where Spero had his finest moment with strong phrases and rapid fire lines. Heath again concluded this number with his patented smooth and graceful action with his sticks unlike any other drummer in Chicago. It's always a pleasure to watch his unique attack of the "skins."

The second set  began with another Silver number, "Nutville" where again Lerner set the tone with his fleet fingers and Heath demonstrated a little muscular action on the drum kit to the delight of the audience. This was followed by Ahmad Jamal's "Poinciana." Both Russell and Spero had highlight solos on this well done classic. This was one of several songs performed tonight that can also be found on Russell's excellent Covering All Basses CD.

Vocalist Gail Pettis, former Chicago resident now residing in Seattle, was coaxed by Russell to render a blues number which demonstrated her "scatting" talents. Pettis appeared at this venue the previous week. She's a talented vocalist and had some in the audience asking for a return engagement at the Regal.

This outstanding set came to a conclusion with Russell and Heath both producing marvelous extended solos on Miles Davis's "So What."

For details about future "Jazz'n" events, refer to www.chicagoregal.com.

Peter Lerner & Frank Russell

Greg Spero

Charles Rick Heath

Frank Russell & Gail Pettis

Peter Lerner

Gail Pettis

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