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The Jazz at the Bechtler concert series combines contemporary music with contemporary art in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. The Ziad Jazz Quartet was joined by jazz singer Toni Tupponce in a program called "Jazz for Lovers" at on the first Friday in February.
While I was at first intimidated to attend a concert called "Jazz for Lovers" by myself on Friday, as soon as I stepped through the doors of the Bechtler Art Museum, I realized that with or without a partner I was going to have a good time. The Bechtler, usually a quiet place to reflect on its amazing modern art collection, was bustling with energy. I arrived with ten minutes to spare for the sold-out performance and found myself joining the standing-room only crowd.
After wandering around to find a good spot to watch and observe, I finally made my way up to the second floor of the open staircase and had an unobstructed, private view of the band. No matter where you stand on the first floor of the museum, you won't have a problem hearing. The mics were positioned well, and the musicians certainly understand balance. The Bechtler projects a live video feed on the wall above the quartet giving those standing further away a better view. My one constructive comment would be to move the screen to another wall so that the audience sitting and standing around the corner can get a view too.
The Ziad Jazz Quartet is led by namesake, saxophonist Ziad Rabie, with Ron Brendle, bass, Noah Friedline, keyboard, and Al Sergel, drums. The evening started with two quartet-only songs. The leader quipped about "A Night in Tunisia," "it's like putting West Indian spices in some black-eyed peas" – which is as apt a description as I have ever heard about this Gillespie classic.
Toni Tupponce joined the quartet and stayed for the rest of the evening. Her incredibly versatile voice added even more charm to an already amazing combination of musicians. Singing romantic classics like "Too close for comfort," "All of me," and "The Man I Love" (which garnered an audible sigh of delight from the audience), Tupponce stunned with her colorful voice. She seduced, danced, and tickled melodies. She scatted á la Ella in "All of Me," where the audience also enjoyed a solo from Rabie.
Tupponce chatted with the audience between songs. In one break, she gave thanks to those who came before her and briefly spoke of finding her energy as a performer. She seamlessly transitioned into a particularly beautiful and intimate version of "The Very Thought of You," played as a duet with Brendle on bass. I, along with the rest of the audience, was transfixed.
Ballads were balanced with more lively numbers such as "Take Five" and a classic from Stevie Wonder. The message of love culminated in John Lennon’s "Imagine," and then Al Green’s "Here I am Baby" kept the audience dancing as they left for the evening. All sentiments of love were offered and delivered on this Friday.
Jazz at the Bechtler offers two shows on the first Friday of every month. The Ziad Jazz Quartet is the featured group. Buy tickets early for these incredibly popular events, and come prepared to have fun. Once again the Bechtler challenges the idea that a contemporary art museum houses only pretty paintings. Music and culture are literally so packed that you are left standing in delight.
This series continues on March 6 with "Charlie Parker – A Tribute to Bird." For details, click here.