11/16/11

Allan Vaché Quintet: Live at Cultural Center Theater in Port Charlotte, Fla.

Ken Franckling reports on performance by clarinetist and his group at event presented by the Charlotte County Jazz Society

Clarinetist Allan Vaché may be best known for his 17-year stint (1975-1992) with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band, a San Antonio-based classic jazz/early jazz outfit that received heavy exposure on NPR’s “Riverwalk” weekly broadcast. That experience must seem like ancient history, since Vaché set out on his own as a solo artist 16 years ago. He’s based in Orlando FL, travels extensively for festivals and concerts, and has made a dozen recordings for the Arbors Jazz label.

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Allen Vache at Cultural Center Theater in Port Charlotte, Fla.
By Ken Franckling
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Allen Vache at Cultural Center Theater in Port Charlotte, Fla.
By Ken Franckling

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Vaché displayed his stylistic range and strong chops Monday night with a quintet appearance at the acoustically marvelous Cultural Center Theater in Port Charlotte FL. It was his second performance in three years as part of the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s annual concert series. His band included cornetist Davey Jones, pianist Jeff Phillips, bassist Charlie Silva and drummer Ed Metz Jr. All of the players received significant spotlights.

The evening’s two sets included some updates on early Swing jazz, with Vaché also blending other styles. There was a bit of bop (“Bernie’s Tune”), obscure standards, chestnuts from the American Songbook, the Duke Ellington songbook, Nat King Cole (complete with Vaché‘s vocal take on the clever lyrics to “Straighten Up and Fly Right”) and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s beautiful boss nova “Look to the Sky.” The evening wound down with a blistering take on “Caravan” featuring Metz - with Phillips adding a twist with his clavé comping.

Vaché’s clarinet playing is marvelous, particularly as he digs in and shares the passion he finds within a tune. In that regard, he seemed at times to be channeling the emotional style of his clarinet hero, the late Kenny Davern. It was most evident on “Bernie’s Tune,” “After You’ve Gone,” the Jobim bossa nova and “Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me.”

As the leader introduced the band, he told telling the audience of about 300: “If you like me, my name is Allan Vaché. If you don’t like me, my name is Warren Vaché.”

There likely will be a lot more such sibling humor on March 9 when the Vaché Brothers Swinging Quintet, featuring Allan on clarinet and Warren on cornet, performs up the road at the Sarasota Jazz Festival. It will feature the same rhythm section.

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