Ken Leighton 3:30 p.m., Sept. 21
Karen Marguth: swinging in P.B.
Marguth has all the tools, and she knows how to use them.
Fresno vocalist Karen Marguth breezed into the new Dizzy's on Sunday, January 27th, fronting a kind of California-All-Star group featuring LA woodwind specialist Nate Ketner, San Francisco bassist Sam Rocha, Fresno drummer Nathan Guzman and San Diegan Jason Wanner, for a superbly paced evening of consistently swinging jazz.
Marguth is the real deal, spot-on intonation, crystal clear enunciation, and, above all, a flawless sense of phrasing.
Opening with "Old Black Magic," Marguth hit the ground running-- over the propulsive bass of Rocha, her resonant voice soared, swooped and most of all, swung while Wanner soloed with melodic velocity and Ketner roared with a Dexter Gordon-esque verve.
Proving that she's equally adept at "straight-eighth" material, she tackled the bossa-nova groove of "I Have A Feeling" with a lithe and natural ability before transitioning into a barrelhouse treatment of "Comes Love," which found her taking long, held-tones and stretching them like saltwater taffy. Ketner's alto saxophone featured piercing wails trailing wide arcs of the blues. Rocha's solo motored along with a vocal unison and short glissandi, while Wanner seemed to come from a pre-bop era, with a series of rollicking trills.
She can also handle a ballad, her pitch-perfect voice stripped free of artifice on "So I Love You", over the tinkling piano harmonies of Wanner, yielding to the resonant purr of Ketner's tenor, which decorated the changes with a comfortable élan.
Marguth took Paul McCartney's "Blackbird," over bass-only accompaniment, and segued into "Bye-Bye Blackbird," without raising an eyebrow.
She was generous with the solo space as well, giving Ketner an opportunity to soar like Johnny Hodges on "Stardust" and burn like an arsonist on Bird's "Au Privave." Wanner had a marvelous feature on "In A Sentimental Mood," which fit his retro style like a glove.
Guzman, who spent most of the night in super-quiet support mode, finally got a chance to bust out with a superlative solo on "Lagrimas Negras," sounding like multiple drummers locked in a shoot-out.
Marguth is a true professional, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
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