October 3, 2013
There was a full house at the Fillius Events Barn on Friday, Sept. 27 to welcome the return of pianist Dick Hyman and his all-star jazz band. The ensemble played music from Hyman’s 1994 recording “From the Age of Swing.”
Hyman was joined by guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, drummer Jackie Williams, bassist Jay Leonhart and trumpeter Randy Sandke. The ensemble also featured Deanna Nappi ’15 on baritone sax, Fillius Jazz Archive Director Monk Rowe on alto sax and Syracuse trombonist Grec McCrea. Both Hyman and Pizzarelli have received honorary degrees from Hamilton College.
The concert opened with a moving ceremony officially renaming the Hamilton College Jazz Archive in honor of Nikki and Milt Fillius Jr. ’44. Milt was the founder of the Jazz Archive and the Fallcoming jazz tradition. Speakers including President Joan Hinde Stewart and Monk Rowe discussed Nikki’s and Milt’s passion for jazz and Hamilton College.
The eight-piece band opened with the up-tempo “Deed I Do.” Both Hyman and Randy Sandke played building solos supported by elaborate backgrounds by the other brass players. Hyman’s catchy single note lines and bluesy solos were exciting to listen to. The next song, “I Know What You Do,” showcased the band’s dynamics and solid rhythm section.
Every musician had a chance to demonstrate his or her virtuosity. Randy Sandke played fluid and tasteful trumpet solos, even using a plunger mute. Jay Leonhart played a bowed bass solo on “This Can’t be Love” and even sang an original tune. Showing his complete mastery over the guitar, Bucky Pizzarelli played a solo tune as well as leading the band in a hot rendition of “It Don’t Mean a Thing.” Greg McCrae played an exciting version of Tommy Dorsey’s “Undecided.” Jackie Williams was rock solid on the drums, and played an impressive drum solo using mallets, tambourines and even his hands!
Monk Rowe held his own soloing on “Doogie Woogie” and was grateful to have the opportunity to play with such stellar musicians. “For me, playing with Dick Hyman, Bucky Pizzarelli, Jay Leonhart and Jackie Williams was like stepping back in time into a musical heaven. These musicians play exactly what the music needs and display virtuosity without grandstanding.”
Deanna Nappi was a featured soloist on the Duke Ellington blues song “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.” Hamilton students cheered and applauded as Nappi played chorus after chorus, each one more exciting and daring than the last. It is safe to say that if Dick Hyman lets you keep playing, you are doing a great job. Monk was particularly pleased with her performance. “Having Deanna on board was an added bonus and I was extremely pleased with the way she handled herself in what could be an intimidating setting,” he said.