Five distinctive dancers and four musicians who effortlessly blend make up the current Jazz Tap Ensemble, a local performing institution that took over the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood over the weekend for a series of events, including a polished "Summer Nights" program on Saturday.
As usual, Sam Weber and Derick Grant provided examples of show-stopping tap bravura: Weber in the brilliantly complex playoffs with the band in "Oleo," Grant in the explosive, unpredictable athleticism of "Drums" and his sections of "Taxi."
However, the major novelty of the evening may have been the experiments in tap partnering that Lynn Dally wove into her new group showcase, "Oracle." Instead of the usual side-by-side duets, this fluid quintet boasted balletic finger-turns and even something that looked like a supported tap-pirouette. And although she minimized her own dancing here, Dally managed to find stylish opportunities for everyone else.
Dormeshia Sumbry, the tap historian of the group, offered "Ladybird," a new arrangement of choreography by the late Eddie Brown--not as splashy as her Bill "Bojangles" Robinson reconstruction, perhaps, but full of nonchalant intricacies.
Lainie Manning needed to tone down the audience-courting cuteness of her new "Swingin' " solo, but technical skill and musicality marked her dancing throughout.
Dally's dark, turbulent " 'Round Midnight" solo was listed as a local premiere, although Dally solos with the same title--to the same Thelonious Monk score--have frequently turned up on Jazz Tap programs for nearly 10 years now.
Besides accompanying the tapping, musicians Doug Walter, Eric Ajaye, Jerry Kalaf and Stacy Rowles performed pieces by Kalaf and Rowles' father (Jimmy Rowles) with great suavity.