In the final concert of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s Extended Season/Emerging Artists concert series on Thursday, up-and-coming jazz singer Sachal Vasandani seemed to be caught in the middle of a pull-and-tug between the traditional and the contemporary.
Looking back, he and his trio – versatile pianist Jeb Patton, bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Otis Davis – launched into their performance with “That Old Black Magic,” but the magic didn’t quite click in. The cool, gentle interpretation of the standard “I Get a Kick Out of You” – accompanied only by Patton – didn’t fare much better. There just seemed to be a spark missing. Perhaps it was the small crowd – less than half the theater was filled – or perhaps the singer had a late night the evening before at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan. Either way, Vasandani just didn’t seem to push the songs into any new shapes.
He did manage to put some sparkle into the time-honored ballad, “There Are Such Things,” but drummer Davis stole the song with a marvelous solo employing only his hi-hat.
Vasandani was better with his self-penned material – the very personal “Royal Eyes,” for example, and especially “Every Ocean, Every Star,” a soothing, rolling ballad that featured some exquisite bowed bass work from Sanders.
Vasandani concluded the program with one of his best efforts, Hubert Laws’ gospelesque jazz-blues “No More,” as the vocalist imbued Jon Hendricks’ lyrics with his most soulful performance of the night and bolstering them with some fine scatting, as well.
“Thanks for letting me do what I most love to do, which is sing and perform,” he declared, and with that he walked offstage. A short, 70-minute performance with no encore.
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
SACHAL VASANDANI SET LIST
That Old Black Magic
Escape/There’s a Small Hotel
Ring Road (Back to You)
Sometimes I’m Happy (Sometimes I’m Blue)
Please Mr. Oglivy
There Are Such Things
I Get a Kick Out of You
Every Ocean, Every Star