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Jazz Reviews : Melvoin Trio in Mainstream Mode in Hollywood Series

Windows on Hollywood, better known as the weekly jazz brunch series at the Hollywood Holiday Inn, turned over its bandstand Sunday to pianist Mike Melvoin’s trio.

Both Melvoin and his drummer, John Guerin, have enjoyed great success as studio musicians, perhaps at the expense of their jazz reputations. Nevertheless, as they wasted no time in demonstrating, their capabilities in the mainstream mode remain unimpaired.

Though not the most experimental of players, Melvoin has enough technique and imagination to deliver a sharply defined jazz message, expressed through a repertoire of standards, blues and originals. His own pieces, such as “Whiskey for Breakfast” and “The Fifth Power,” were essentially well-crafted launching pads for improvisations by Melvoin and bassist Brian Bromberg.

Bromberg, well established for his electric work, is downright prodigious on the upright bass. He employed devices now common to the true masters of the instrument, generally moving around with a degree of dexterity that would challenge a violinist.

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Guerin and Bromberg left no doubt that this was a unit, not just three men assembled on an ad hoc basis. Melvoin’s arrangements are ingenious, locking the trio into a tight conformity. On “Oh, Baby,” a fast blues, all three men accented every note in the tricky line of the theme.

Witty, both in his announcements and at the keyboard, Melvoin is the type who will change keys upward in the middle of a bar just to lend the sound of surprise to an old Charlie Parker tune like “Scrapple From the Apple.” On Sunday, the brunch will feature drummer Kenny Dennis’ trio.


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