Story and Photos by James Walker
The second day of the 26th Annual Jazz Unites South Shore Country Club Jazz fest began with the threat of rain and thunderstorms forecast for the entire day. By the end of the evening, the only rain in the area was that of the array of musical talent "raining" on the sun drenched crowd that has assembled on this historic lake front venue. Young, old, Black, Hispanic, White, all were in a very festive mood and seemed to really enjoy each group that performed throughout the day.
This writer arrived toward the end of the Caribbean jazz group Carrazz's set and the tone for the day had been established. This seven man band played a variety of upbeat tunes that were a perfect backdrop for South Shore's lake front location. With the sun beaming and water rippling ashore, one almost felt as if this was a Caribbean island. They certainly put the crowd in a "salsa/samba" mood.
Tecora Rogers, one of Chicago's most underrated female jazz vocalists was next to adorn the stage. Tecora has performed throughout the world and is the ultimate professional. On this day, she was accompanied by a fine group of musicians: Brian Danzy on keyboards, Skinny Williams on sax, Vern Allison on drums and Matt Ferguson on bass. With the exception of Ferguson, all are successful front men of their own bands. Tecora has a beautiful voice and on this sultry and steamy day, she was “hot.” The highlight of the performance was her rendition of "Over the Rainbow." The appreciative South Shore crowd rose to their feet as she concluded her set. Those previously unfamiliar with Tecora discovered an exceptional vocalist.
Pianist "South Shore" John Wright was next to entertain the crowd. John is an “Old School” Legend on the South Side and has been playing piano since the age of 3. John has performed worldwide, but has always returned to his Chicago home base. He performance at this event was simply "spellbinding." Wright's sensual sounds on the ivories were breathtaking. His effortless run of the keys with apparent ease took many by surprise; He was in complete command from start to finish. His songbook this evening included several standards including Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train" and "In a Sentimental Mood." It's always a pleasure to hear Duke's tunes played well and Wright certainly accomplished that task. The pianist was backed by William "Bugs" Cochrane on drums and Nick Tountas on bass. John can be seen weekly at Philanders in Oak Park. Chicago, check out this gem of a piano player.
The last act observed by this writer was the incomparable young trumpet giant, Maurice Brown. Those familiar with the national jazz scene knows that Brown continues to establish himself with the very best. Maurice is a "veteran" at the age of twenty five and was recently recognized by Down Beat Magazine as one of the 25 top trumpet layers in the world. He now resides in New York City but can often be found in Chicago playing with his own group or as a sideman with national acts like Roy Hargrove. Maurice was joined on the stage by a group of exceptional "sidemen." Junius Paul played the upright bass, Isaiah Spencer held down the beat on the drums and Chris Robb tickled the eighty-eights. This writer was unfamiliar with Robb, but have seen Paul and Spencer often throughout Chicago as sidemen and bandleaders. Both are outstanding musicians and demonstrated their talent this evening on many solos. Robb, as an unknown to this writer, was a pleasant surprise. Actually, that's an unfair description for Robb was a phenomenon. He's a Chicago native also working out of NYC.
Adjectives can never adequately describe Brown's performance. His command on the stage is infectious. Even though throughout the day many of the performers experienced problems with the sound system, Maurice didn't allow this to deter him from giving his best effort. He simply stepped to the front of the stage and blew his horn for all to hear without amplification. To the pleasure of the large crowd, Brown invited his buddy Corey Wilkes to the stage to conclude his set. As always when these two get together, they rise to another stratosphere (see our review of their 8/7/07 Velvet Lounge set on this website).
These two young phenoms are a sight to see individually and collectively. They have played together so often that at times it's like one person playing. They thrilled the crowd as they usually do. It's special for Chicagoans to witness them performing together because of the recognition both are receiving worldwide. Chicago, don't take this talent we have for granted. Check them out whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Finally, due to the lateness of her appearance, this writer was unable to review the performance of headliner Gloria Lynn.
Congratulations to Jazz Unites, for a successful two-day Jazz Fest. It's this writer's hope that next year they will produce a sound system that will not interfere with the great sound and music that all expect to hear at South Shore.