At the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Ziad Jazz Quartet and vocalist Toni Tupponce played a wonderful concert of songs from the Great American Songbook and the R and B repertoire.

The group opened with a strong instrumental version of the standard “Our Love is Here to Stay” which immediately established saxophonist Ziad Rabie as a force to be reckoned with and demonstrated the ample swing of the rhythm section, featuring Gary Marcus on keyboards, Ron Brendle on bass, and Al Sergel on drums. After a pretty performance of “My One and Only Love,” vocalist Toni Tupponce joined the group for a rendition of “Just Friends” which showed her to be quite a talented vocalist with a commanding stage presence and an ability to create reinterpretations of the melody in a manner reminiscent of Billie Holiday or Al Jarreau.  The first set moved along with Toni Tupponce singing an absolutely fantastic rendition of “Since I Fell For You” that was unfortunately marred by the cheesy synth setting on the keyboard. “My Funny Valentine” was nicely rearranged and after the rarely heard verse the group launched into a medium swing tempo that gave the standard a fresh sound. “Teach Me Tonight” and the Stevie Wonder classic “All in Love is Fair” rounded out the first set.

If the first set primarily displayed of the talents of Mr. Rabie and Ms. Tupponce, the second set was a showcase for the rhythm section. It opened with “My Romance,” which featured a typically strong saxophone solo; during the fours, drummer Al Sergel fed the saxophonist intense polyrhythmic ideas to work with. Ms. Tupponce rejoined the group for “Please Send Me Someone to Love” which was performed sans piano and drums and gave bassist Ron Brendle a chance to flex his considerable chops. The concert thus far had been wonderful; however, the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” which was performed with an Afro-Cuban flair underneath the melody. Pianist Gary Marcus got a chance to stretch out here and took full advantage of the opportunity, giving the audience one of the finest solos of the night. After a good sax solo, drummer Al Sergel took his only extended solo of the night and demonstrated his powerful groove and supple technique, culling a standing ovation from the audience at the end of the tune. The ubiquitous “Body and Soul” followed and it too was given a fresh sound due to the medium swing tempo. The interplay of Sergel’s ride cymbal and Brendle’s bass lines on this tune was practically telepathic and, at the beginning of the solo section, they drew my attention away from the soloist, not because of any special rhythmic devices they employed but simply because of how hard they were swinging.

After doing a respectable job of breathing new life into the tired song “Fever” the group closed the evening with a take on “All of Me”.
The concert was heavily attended and the performance was first rate. With much being made lately of the “death of jazz,” one is glad to see that in Charlotte, at least, there is still first class jazz being made and supported.

Note: We welcome Carter Stevens to our internship program at CVNC; he is a student at Brevard College.