Jazz devotees and those on the genre’s periphery will find this all-star tribute to many of the music’s greats an entertaining and informative spec with plenty of performances to keep things interesting.
The Carnegie Hall gala was part of the 50th birthday party last month for Verve Records, the jazz label founded by music innovator Norman Granz that helped chronicle the careers of such greats as Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson and Lester Young.
Vanessa Williams and Herbie Hancock take turns at the podium, introing and at times performing tributes to Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Miles Davis , Count Basie, Art Tatum and Wes Montgomery.
Williams, known as a pop singer, shows another sides, warbling a tasty version of “Tea for Two” at the outset. Backed by several of the genre’s most notable talents — Joe Henderson, Kenny Burrell and Ray Brown among them — Williams’ vocal chops easily cross over.
Other perfs are equally classy, such as the vocals delivered by former “Wiz” star Dee Dee Bridgewater on the Fitzgerald signature nugget “Shiny Stockings.”
While the effort by Betty Carter on the classic “How High the Moon” is a joy to watch, it is vocalist Abbey Lincoln who brings the house down on her reading of “I Must Have That Man.”
Appearances by contemporary musicians Bruce Hornsby and Pat Metheny, in their respective tributes to their influences, is an added bonus to the black-tie event.
Instrumentalists are well represented, particularly by the sax work of Henderson and the stellar guitar by Burrell on Parker’s “Now’s the Time.”
Used as the closing number, the tune offered a who’s who of jazz, ending the spec on a resounding high note.