Jazz Masters stars the area's best trumpeters - Ocean City Sentinel: Arts & Entertainment

Jazz Masters stars the area's best trumpeters

By Ed Wismer | Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2010 12:00 am

On Nov. 21, the Somers Point Jazz Society presented the second chapter of its “Jazz Masters” series at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Chapter one starred the best jazz saxophonists of this area and now it was the trumpeters’ turn. The event thrilled the capacity crowd.

The series has been an exploration of the history of America’s true contribution to world culture. It was a painless history lesson, beginning with the Dixieland of the marvelous Bix Beiderbecke and the equally marvelous Louis Armstrong, then proceeded to the lush sounds of Harry James. It included the revolutionary styles of Maynard Ferguson, Nat Adderley, Freddy Hubbard, Miles Davis and Dave Douglas.

Sunday’s show featured four trumpeters and a rhythm section, all of whom performed and really raised the roof of the concert hall. The audience was also brought up to date on such things as embouchure (French for the placement of the lips in playing the instrument), triple-tongue technique and the conservation of breath. Of course the crowd could have learned all these things in a session with today’s trumpet genius Wynton Marsalis, but he’s expensive and Sunday’s session at the library was free of charge. The Somers Point Jazz Society is doing a great job of entertaining and educating the public gratis. The quartet of the area’s finest trumpeters, Bob Ferguson, Al Harrison, Joe Breidenstine and Mike Natale, were accompanied by the rhythm section of drummer Bob Shomo, Dean Schneider on piano and Tim Lekan on acoustic bass. Natale was the leader and lead trumpet on the Mike Douglas television show.

Library Director Chris Maloney welcomed the crowd and introduced Mike Pedicin, president of the Somers Point Jazz Society, who then in turn introduced the trumpeters. Leading off was Al Harrison, who began with a Dixieland number that was followed by a Chet Baker arrangement of “My Foolish Heart,” and then a bossa nova beat song. Drummer Bob Shomo has become a premier exponent of that bossa nova beat.

Between trumpeters, Pedicin interjected additional material about the music and instruments. There were several instruments stacked up behind the players, including trumpets, cornets and flugelhorns and they were all played magnificently. Pedicin joked about embouchures, or chops, that gave trumpet players difficulty on cold mornings. He said that reed players like himself didn’t have those troubles.

Ferguson was up next, and he started with a Louis Armstrong number written by Lil Hardin. The song was “Struttin’ with Barbecue,” which referred to a girl rather than food. Ferguson played the daylights out of it with all of Satchmo’s screaming high notes. It got a huge and deserved hand.

Breidenstine was next. He is the youngest of the quartet and played a smooth style reminiscent of Harry James. His “Lover Man” was embellished with flourishes of triple tonguing.

Pedicin explained that jazz began as party music and transitioned into swing, which was related to a kind of pop that made the music a social event.

The fourth man with a golden horn was Natale, who played Miles Davis’ arrangement of “Bye, Bye Blackbird.” Natale’s playing was the epitome of sophistication and full of syrupy segues, and was played partly with a mute and then full-throated. He also played a number called “Little Sunflower,” bossa nova style and “I’ll Remember and I’ll Smile” with an abrupt but appropriate ending.

All four trumpeters got together to play a wild version of “Perdido,” in which they blended beautifully while at the same time trying to outdo each other and display their own style. The applause was deafening.

Sunday, November 28 will bring the finale of the series, featuring the Jazz Piano Masters. What a way to end up a year of nifty jazz. I’d advise you to arrive well in advance of the 3 p.m. starting hour to guarantee yourself a seat.