Story and Photos by Brad Walseth
The Store (2002 N. Halsted) was the location last Friday night for another excellent doubleheader of jazz music on the North Side. The Paul Abella Trio is a jam band that combines jazz with rock and pop influences to produce an exciting mix of sounds that is sure to entertain an audience. With what other band can you hear jazzed up versions of "Caravan/Shortnin' Bread," the Beatles' "Rocky Raccoon," Pat Metheny's "Bright Size Life" and Metallica's "Battery" all in the same set? Guitarist Mitch Corso is a talented player and singer, while bassist Bob Ferraris is an experienced and energetic player. Both are able to play convincingly in a wide range of styles. Bandleader/ percussionist Paul Abella meanwhile is also well known as the music director for Chicago's jazz station WDCB, and as a respected reviewer for Chicago Jazz magazine. Emulating "Mr. Bongo" Jack Costanzo's role with the Nat KIng Cole Trio, Abella keeps things moving with his exuberant playing and effervescent personality. Although some of the material the band performs are favorites like "Love Blossoms at Stateville" and "Amazing Grace" from their fine 2007 release mainstremism, as well as from their upcoming release, the band's good-natured "anything goes" attitude permeates the atmosphere. On Friday night, Corso shone on versions of "All Along the Watchtower," and the Paul Simon tune "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," as well as the aforementioned Beatles song. It was great to hear these classic tunes included in this fun and eclectic set list. Abella and his group play at various locations around the city and suburbs and they appear on the final Friday each month at The Store. In an admirable effort to promote more band communication, Abella invites another group to join them; on this Friday it was Dave Miller's Kaleidoscope Trio.
We have recently covered Dave in several situations where he sent his guitar signal through electronic effects on his guitar (see our recent concert reviews of Algernon, blink and Loom), but he is also an exceptional straight-ahead player. His Kaleidoscope Trio - with keyboardist Kevin Fort and bassist Jeff Greene - has played at Dee's Mandarin every Friday night for the last 4-5 years and has developed tight band interplay and an interesting and highly enjoyable set list. Wonderful standards like "You Stepped Out of a Dream," "Woody N' You," "The Song is You" and "Ornithology" were joined by originals composed by Kevin Fort. Fort's tunes performed on Friday included the lightly swinging "Neptune," the Latin-flavored "Map to the Ocean," the autumnal "Red Gold" and the haunting "Wind." There is a distinct Bill Evans feel to Fort's style, but classical influences like Satie and Debussy are also present in his rewarding compositions. Miller's playing recalls Jim Hall in his clean and flawless technique and delicious chord voicings, while bassist Greene is fluid, tastefully supportive and substantial. The trio's excellent album Map to the Ocean is available for free at jazzexchange.org and you can catch them in action at Dee's (1114 W. Armitage Ave.) every Friday night.