01/29/12

Greg Nielsen and his Quartet in Florida, 1/27/12

Trombonist and his quartet bring versatility and experience to Venice, Fla.

Trombonist Greg Nielsen brought his quartet, and a lot of versatility, to the Venice Art Center in southwest Florida on January 27 for an SRO performance. Nielsen’s quartet included pianist Dick Reynolds, bassist John Lamb and drummer/singer Dave Pruyn. Nielsen, a longtime bandleader, educator and sideman, is an engaging performer who loves digging into jazz standards. One highlight was his take on Lee Morgan’s “Ceora,” which the quartet performed as a bossa nova.

While trombone is his primary instrument, Nielsen also played at various points flugelhorn, trumpet, a two-belled double euphonium and a slide trumpet. The unusual euphonium hybrid was quite a marvel to hear. During Nielsen’s solos on “Lullaby of Birdland,” he shifted back and forth between middle and low registers. (“The nice thing,” he quipped, “is that I can make two mistakes at once now.”)

Reynolds was house pianist at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago during the 1960s. He now splits his year between Michigan and the Sarasota area. Lamb, blessed with a deep and robust tone, worked with Red Garland in the mid-1950s and was the Ellington band’s bassist for three years in the 1960s and an occasional fill in later.

Pruyn is very active on the Florida scene, leading his own band, working in others as a trumpeter, drummer and/or vocalist. (His tone, sense of time and musical choices are very reminiscent of Mel Tormé, and he has a Tormé tribute show in his repertoire.) His vocal features were “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” and “Don’t Blame Me.”

Reynolds provided the afternoon’s most poignant moment, a beautiful ballad, elegiacally dark at times, called “Song for Stan.” He said he wrote it as a tribute upon tenor saxophonist Stan Getz’s passing in 1991.

The South County Jazz Club sponsored the matinee event, and standing room only was no exaggeration. About 135 people jammed into the center’s main gallery. Club President Morrie Trumble said it was the largest turnout to date in the club’s concert series, which began in 2010.

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