Ken Harrison 4:30 p.m., Dec. 13
Dave Scott Live in National City
Was it just a strange coincidence that meteorologist/bandleader Dave Scott's Sunday performance in National City at the Liberty Theatre occurred during a rainstorm? Well, it certainly gave the affable trombonist something to chat up the audience about.
Sunday's gig was at best, a wildly uneven affair. Scott is no joke as a musician--he can really play the horn. However, he chose to spend much of his two sets devoted to his vocals, and therein lay a big part of the problem--for me, at least.
It's not that Scott can't sing. He has a pleasant enough voice, and, thankfully, a strong sense of pitch. It's just that if you are going to really nail it as a singer, you have to have more than that. The other problematic area for me was that Scott chose to feature his own original material--mostly saccharine light funk/jazz stuff that you might have heard on one of those "quiet-storm" radio stations back in the 90s. The material all kind of sounded the same, and the lyrics were dreadfully lightweight.
It would have been great to hear him explore more standards from the Great American Songbook, but he really needs to study the master singers to infuse some sense of the emotion behind the words. I am not a huge Chet Baker fan, but Baker was able to do so much more with so much less than Scott has in his toolbox.
One thing that tended to save the leader too often on this night was the impeccable support of his working group. Pianist Irving Flores is a monster. His support and soloing was strong as an oak tree, but even he couldn't lift some of the material off the ground. Likewise, there aren't too many electric bass/ drum teams more potent than Mark Hunter and Kevin Koch. These cats could make a nursery rhyme sound as deep as Shostakovich.
Flores lead off "Day By Day," with a wicked piano vamp that quoted "Take The A Train," with Hunter's nimble and elastic lines in support. Koch locked into a hi-hat driven groove and Scott acquitted himself well on the bone, although he didn't really use the bottom register for some reason. If they had stayed on the course established by the opener, this would be a much more enthusiastic review.
Unfortunately, Scott put the horn down, and launched into two originals, "On A Rainy Day," and "Cup of Joe," that had me wincing. The first was a faceless funk groove and the second, a island-flavored tune in the tradition of Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas."
Here's where the perplexing component comes in: I was actually set to leave as the second piece was winding down when Scott picked up his horn (finally), and took a mellifluous, show-stopping solo so strong it made me stick around to see if there was any more where that came from.
That's how the evening went. For every standout moment, like the swinging version of "More," which finally made sense, vocally to me, there were three or four originals named after Starbuck's or written from the perspective of a stray dog, ("Out On The Streets").
I'd love to hear Scott do something different. Same musicians, different material, and the reverse ratio of instrumentals to vocals.
It should be noted that the crowd seemed to love it.