Entertainment, Reviews

Unique Jazz Program Presented by Moyer and Trio

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by David K. Rodgers

The audience attending the third concert of the Summer Music from Greensboro series on Tuesday evening, August 1, were entertained by a unique program entitled “Classical Jazz” by pianist Fredierick Moyer and his Jazz Trio, with an interesting combination of works by Mozart and Rachmaninoff in the first part and then pieces by Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Monty Alexander and other jazz greats in the second half.

An interesting technical innovation one noticed right away was that the pianist’s hands on the keyboard could be seen from any seat in the United Church of Christ by a visual projection onto the raised lid of the piano, from a small camera on the right side of the instrument, an overview that usually only a few can enjoy.

The “Sonata No. 9 in D Major,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), began the concert, a relatively early work (K 311) in Mozart’s career, written in 1777. Just the first movement, Allegro con spirito, was played by Moyer, entirely from memory. It had a lively melody with a nice interplay of the right and left hands, paralleling, echoing and being juxtaposed in the scoring.

The “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43,” by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was written in 1934 and consists of 24 variations on the last sections in the original, extremely virtuosic solo violin work by Paganini, who was one of the first international superstars in the 19th century musical world. Rachmaninoff himself was virtually the last of the significant Romantic composers, and the rhapsody is richly melodic, harmonically colorful and full of feeling, sometimes verging on sentimentality and the bombastic, but saved from that by some sly humor. Moyer was accompanied by a recorded orchestral part from Music Minus One, which allows musicians to practice concertos in particular. But, again, he played the piece entirely from memory.

Beginning with Paganini’s melody, the variations proceed with much drama, highly energetic, changing in tempos and rhythms, with lighter and darker ambiences, and challenging fireworks at times in the handwork, which the projection on the piano lid made us appreciate much more than usual. When we came to the end of the 24 permutations, we felt like we had been on a real journey!

In the second half of the concert, Moyer was joined by Peter Tillotson on bass and Bob Savine on drums. Here again Moyer had some technological innovations. The musicians had scores before them which had previously been carefully noted down from older recordings to get as accurate a performance as possible.

The first number was an Oscar Peterson rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon” by Bart Howard. Peterson, a legendary jazz improviser, incorporated baroque elaborations on the melody, shared around among the players.

This was followed by “Poinciana,” a signature tune of Ahmad Jamal (1930-2022) one of the most imaginative jazz stylists of the 20th century, here with a more restrained piano part, having curious rhythms and momentum, sometimes leaving us hanging in space for a few seconds of silence. You had a similar pattern of discontinuity in the piano, working in contrast to the uninterrupted

playing of the bass and drums.

Montgomery Bernard Alexander (b. 1944), a Jamaican jazz pianist was well represented by his version of “Satin Doll” (Strayhorn, Ellington), which morphed into all kinds of unanticipated, wild twists and turns, demonstrating the fine skill of the entire trio.

Several other works gave Moyer, Tillotson and Savine the opportunity to try their own improvisations, starting with “Windmills of Your Mind” by Michel Legrand, which had a very relaxed, cool and elegant mood as the melody developed.

“The Trolley Song” (from “Meet Me in St. Louis”) was brought to life by intriguing variations and then the melancholy, evocative “Girl from Ipanema” by the Brazilian bossa nova composer Antonio Carlos Jobin was explored.

“Blue Daisies” by Oscar Peterson ended the concert with some fast tempos and drum pyrotechnics, all very playful.

An encore brought the trio back for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ever lovely “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from “Oklahoma.”

Moyer is certainly a master of his instrument with an impressive technical talent and the deep involvement that is required to do imaginative improvisations with split second decision making as to where to go next. Altogether he and his two fellow players maintained consistent ensemble coherence from years of performing together, and the well over a dozen of his CD recordings available show his consummate artistry.

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