Two concerts in one weekend
By Kevin Foley
Jazz, straight ahead, hard swinging, sure-footed jazz, flowed with abundant abandon in Cold Spring last weekend (June 25-26) adding to the local musical fervor. Two concerts, one early Saturday evening and the other Sunday afternoon, offered listeners the opportunity to hear masterful musicians in intimate settings. Both concerts, free and open to the public, featured bands led by Philipstown residents. Saturday evening Philipstown.info hosted a Tom McCoy-led quintet at the website’s office and exhibit space at 69 Main St. The Jazz Vespers event was a kind of secular extension of McCoy’s vespers (evening worship) concerts held at the First Presbyterian Church on Academy Street, featured in a recent Philipstown.info story. The church service is on hiatus for the summer with plans to begin again in September. Meanwhile McCoy thought a few concerts during the summer might maintain momentum and introduce some others to the idea outside the church.
For last Saturday’s gig, McCoy assembled most of the professionally experienced group featured in the Jazz Vespers series,with one notable change, saxophonist Ed Xiques for Rob Scheps. More on Scheps later. “We take familiar hymn tunes like Precious Lord and cast them into a jazz framework and we take jazz standards and our own compositions and work them into the theme or context of the vespers for that day,” said McCoy, referring to his regular church performances. “But today we are just introducing the music.”
McCoy led his band through several spirited numbers including his own arrangements of Cole Porter’s What Is This Thing Called Love and the hymn Jesus Loves Me. McCoy pointed out, as a proud resident, that the lyrics to the hymn were written by Anna Warner and first appeared in an 1860 novel by her sister, Susan. The Warners once lived on Constitution Island, off Cold Spring, where their now-closed house still stands. Two other numbers, My Warm Heart by vibraphonist Mark Sherman and Triple Blues by Xiques, stood out to this listener’s ears. Sherman’s music and playing in particular reminded those present what a delightful, playful instrument the vibes can be.
The Chapel swings
On Sunday afternoon at the Chapel of Our Lady Restoration, the aforementioned Rob Scheps led his Core-tet through a pulsating, elongated set of music dominated by his own bebop-infused compositions as well as a few by other composers. Where McCoy’s group played with a deft, lighter rhythmic touch, Scheps’ band played with a harder edge that was not without softer, meditative moments. Scheps himself is a forceful, melodic player with a wide range displayed on tunes such as Bugalu’s Blues and Hazy Seattle. He is also a generous leader allowing Jamie Reynolds on piano and Cameron Brown on bass to reveal the special magic that results when two talented, experienced musicians have played together for a long time. Trumpet player Jim O’Connor, a Croton-on-Hudson resident and a substitute for Scheps’ regular horn companion, played with rigor and warmth especially in harmony with Scheps.
Concerts in the chapel series, which are usually classical music, rarely run much longer than an hour, but Scheps’ group took a short break after an hour and came back for nearly another hour. During the concert Scheps acknowledged Ed Xiques from the McCoy concert in the audience. The pair caught up during the intermission. Jazz, an authentically American music, is often relegated to the back row in the popular culture these days. In an impatient world, the music demands patience and closer listening; those willing and able this past weekend were richly rewarded.