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LA vocalist Melissa Morgan returned to 98 Bottles last night in a Chuck Perrin/dizzy's performance that featured wunderkind bassist Mike Gurrola, drummer Charles Ruggiero and our own piano master Joshua White.

The concert began with the trio of White, Gurrola and Ruggiero tackling an unannounced standard plus Ornette Coleman's "Turnaround." White treated each in his highly personalized style--jangling clusters, Monk-ish intervals, wide swaths of pure melody laced with wicked bits of blues. Gurrola is a guy to watch for--he's in his early 20's, and already a monster with a huge woody sound and cogent solo ideas.

Morgan joined the group for an intensely rhythmic reading of Betty Carter's "Tight," followed by a boisterous version of "You Let My Love Grow Cold." The singer commands a wide range of dynamics--spanning from a near whisper to long, held tones that knock the dust off the rafters.

"The Very Thought Of You," was taken at medium swing tempo--Morgan sculpts each phrase with her own timbre--making you hang on every word--while White launched into a lyrical solo that flirted with some sabotage in the middle. "Sleeping Bee," began as a duet with the always swinging bass of Gurrola, then right into a White demonstration of how to constantly break things up.

On Shirley Horn's, "Some Of My Best Friends Are The Blues," Morgan rode short glissandi into powerful long tones that cut right into your skull--and kept it all moving with a deft sense of forward motion. Ruggiero was equally adept with brushes and sticks, and a few times he erupted with explosive solos that ricocheted around the room.

It all ended with an ecstatic romp through Irving Berlin's "Cheek To Cheek," featuring a round of inspired solos driven by Morgan's infectious swing.

Photo by Barbara Wise

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