The Post-Standard

CNY Orchestra, Laws offer solid night of jazz
Sunday, October 22, 2006

By Chuck Klaus
Contributing writer

The start of the 11th season of the CNY Jazz Orchestra was a strong one, featuring skilled jazz flutist Hubert Laws.

Laws is deservedly well-known for a long series of albums stretching back to the 1960s, and he’s made mainstream jazz hits from “Amazing Grace” and his renditions of classical pieces, as well as original compositions. Although wonderfully at home in the recording studios, where he has contributed to projects by the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Roberta Flack and Claude Bolling, Laws is a graceful and ingratiating live performer.

Before Laws performed in the second half of the concert, the CNY Jazz Orchestra had a chance to shine, first with Michael Abene’s arrangement of the old Ray Noble tune “The Touch of Your Lips.” The smooth, cool version made for a mellow concert opener, and demonstrated the strength of the group: solid tone and technique, with a really strong spine of a rhythm section, featuring drummer and CNY Jazz Orchestra Executive Director Larry Luttinger.

Luttinger time and again provided just the right inventive and forward-pressing touch. Music director Bret Zvacek showed himself an able leader, and a polished composer and arranger, based on his “You Again” and several other charts played during the evening.

The most unusual and progressive work in part one of the concert was Bill Holman’s “More About Thirds,” a 10-minute-plus piece that gave some indication of what Stan Kenton might have sounded like had he lived another quarter century.

After intermission, Laws took the stage and raised the bar, first with a piccolo rendition of Zvacek’s “It Might Be You.” Immediately, one was struck not only by deep technical abilities, but also a musical sense that balanced bursts of virtuoso invention with beautifully played lyrical content.

That same high level of improvised balance came through in Frank Mantooth’s rather uptempo version of the Blackburn/Suessdorf ballad “Moonlight in Vermont.” Joe Newman’s “Midgets” was a wild little work, followed by Laws’ simple and effective “What a Night.”

“Family” was well sung by Cindy Miller, who exhibited both sustained power, a nice sense with a lyric and an impressive vocal range.

After a standing ovation, Neil Hefti’s ultra-smooth “Lil’ Darlin’ ” - well-known to “Tonight Show” fans of the Johnny Carson era, when it was used as a sign-off for many a broadcast - brought one more chance to savor the mellow approach and beautiful sound of the still-reigning master of the jazz flute.

© 2006 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.

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