THe Best of 2001

The Best of 2001
Impressions and Regressions
by Bob McMurray

2001 was a great year for my family and me. We built a long awaited new house. My son caught his first touchdown pass for his school team and my daughter had her first Holy Communion. Jazz continued to be a stimulating part of our lives from live performances to the subject of new paintings to my youngest, six-year-old, son professing his commitment to Daddy’s music over pretenders like the Beatles. Allow me to list some memorable jazz experiences that I will take away from 2001.

Best new local guy
I hired pianist Ron Perillo as part of the George Freeman quintet. I had never heard Ron play live even though he is major presence in the Chicago area. He didn’t realize my house under construction was his gig that day and had to drive by my address three times before he came up the drive. I met him half way and he had no problem immediately acclimating to the unconventional surroundings. The request I threw his way was Strayhorn’s ‘Lush Life’, which he played with vigor and imagination. Ron’s a great guy, a fun guy, and I look forward to seeing him this coming week on the local Chicago scene.

Most Irresistible Purchase
On the way in to work one morning during the 2001 Christmas season I was listening to the local FM jazz station. They were playing various jazz versions of favorite Christmas seasons – which is a good thing. After hearing various versions of ‘Sleigh Ride’, ‘Winter Wonderland’, and ‘Let it Snow’ what really turned my head was a song that I had never heard before sung by the smoky goodness of Chicago jazz singer Jackie Allen accompanied by her friend pianist Judy Roberts. The aptly named ‘Why Can’t Everyday Be Christmas?’ immediately engaged me into the Christmas spirit and as soon as I got into my office I ordered it for my family to hear all Christmas long!

Best Visual Representation of Jazz
Purely by accident, and I don’t remember exactly how right now, I came across the most amazing source of high-energy jazz paintings. And, it was on the Internet! They were portraits of all of the greats. I’m no art critic, certainly, but I know what I like and these paintings spoke very clearly to me about the abstract power of jazz. Check them out at:

Best scotch / jazz combination
Even without truly being able to measure it my friends and I acknowledge most mystical, sensory, connection between jazz and single malt scotch whisky. I usually enjoy a dram of Scotch at whichever club I happen to be. Aberlour 15 at the Green Mill in Chicago listening to the George Freeman quartet swing and burn. Terrific! Try it some time.

Most unique jazz experience
Attending Lincoln Center’s Jazz on Film series afforded me the opportunity to experience a unique blending of lecture (from host Dianne Reeves), video, and great music. Billie Holiday and Lester Young last pairing on CBS’s jazz special playing ‘Fine and Mellow’ has stuck with me all year.

Saddest closing
The Sweet Basil in Greenwich Village was the site for jazz in over 25 years. I was lucky enough to see Louis Hayes and Vincent Herring there before they closed their doors in the second half of the 2001. Their website says something about re-opening under new management. I hope to see that come to fruition. There aren’t nearly enough great jazz clubs in the world to see one as great as this pass away.

Biggest missed opportunity
It wasn’t until after I came back from New York that I discovered a relatively new club in upper Manhattan called Smoke. The location was perfect but the real opportunity was to see the house band, which included Eric Reed on piano and Eric Alexander on sax. Two of my favorite players who don’t come to Chicago anywhere nearly enough. Two of my favorite players were right under my nose and I missed them! Perhaps an opportunity for 2002…