LIVE: Ed Cherry @ Senate Garage, 1/20/18

February 1st, 2018, 4:00 pm by Greg
John Menegon and Ed Cherry

John Menegon and Ed Cherry

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

Jazzstock – the indie concert promotion organization run by vocalist Teri Roiger and bassist John Menegon – has been staging shows in Senate Garage for more than a year now. However, if you didn’t know what musical magic was happening inside the nearly 100-year old stone structure in the heart of Kingston’s Stockade District, you’d pass it off as another relic that someone probably turned into a bistro or a coffee shop or a clearing house for slightly-used MAGA hats. The truth is pretty darn breathtaking, if you ask me.

It’s not that the inside of the refurbished former parking garage is lavish: If anything, the modern chandeliers are the only things pricier than the finished floor that shines dimly under the fixtures’ exposed cylindrical bulbs. Seating is on black wooden folding chairs, food & beverages are served from a medium-sized table in one of the back corners (more on that situation later), and the “stage” is a king-sized Oriental rug in the center of an area that gets extra lighting from the kind of spotlights used to illuminate your back yard.

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The overall feeling is of a pop-up gig, created by people who thought, “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a SHOW!” The thing is, though, it’s alternative spaces like this brick-walled banquet facility that have given Greater
Nippertown some of its best live jazz, and Ed Cherry’s appearance at Jazzstock’s “Winter Sky” concert can be added to that hallowed roster.

Cherry’s best known for backing the late great John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, but the acclaimed hollow-body guitarist has been in business for himself for quite some time: In 2016, Cherry put out a truly fun organ-trio date on Positone called Soul Tree that included takes on everyone from Dave Brubeck to Kool & the Gang. There was no organ in sight when Cherry, Menegon, drummer Steve Williams and multi-instrumentalist Jay Collins mounted the stage, but the sweet groove that snaked through the 90-minute performance had the same mischievous vibe a Hammond B3 always brings to anything it’s involved with.

With no carpeting or drywall to suck up the sound, you’d have thought Senate Garage would be one giant echo chamber that was a nightmare to mic up, let alone perform in. Fortunately, Cherry and his partners played the room like absolute experts, using a little amplification where other venues – and other artists – would have demanded a lot. John Coltrane’s “Central Park West” (one of the tracks on /Soul Tree) /was sweet and lyrical as the opening tune, with Collins starting the night on flute and bewitching us with a warm flute sound that recalled the pastoral side of Herbie Mann. Cherry sat while he played, but his guitar wasn’t sitting – it was jumping, as Williams painted with brushes and Menegon sent his bass lines right down the middle.

The guitarist turned up the wick a little on “Ding Dong”, a kicking groover recorded by the late keyboardist Big John Patton, another former employer of Cherry’s. (“All these ‘late greats,’” Cherry cracked when introducing the Lee Morgan composition “Edda.” He added, “If you’re writing these names down, please check them out!”) Collins pulled out his tenor sax for “Ding Dong”, and it was on tenor that he did his most scintillating damage, crushing it on Oscar Pettiford’s “Bohemia After Dark” and bringing the night to a rocking close on the Dizzy tune “Oww!” Collins also sings after a fashion, though he shouted Muddy Waters’ “Why Are People Like That” more than he sang it, and his hoarse delivery of Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” didn’t make anyone forget Chet Baker.

Vocal issues aside, the chemistry between Cherry and Collins was a constant delight, as Cherry’s hopping fills and comps gave Collins’ solo lines even more buoyance. Collins also seemed to drive Cherry to search for even more heights on his own solos: The guitar lines on “Edda” were almost out of sight, and the elegance Cherry brought to their hushed duet take on Kenny Burrell’s “Chitlins Con Carne” was so on point, you held your breath for fear any outside sound might break the spell. Occasionally Cherry threw in some echoplex to expand the vibe, but it wasn’t really necessary, because this concert space loved Cherry’s hollow-body sound, and that sound loved the space right back.

Menegon’s double bass was not on the PA and his amp was turned way down low, so his early solos were almost inaudible unless the rest of the band dropped out almost entirely – which, by the way, they did with practiced ease on more than one occasion. But even without volume (which he did get for the last half of the set), Menegon’s patented resonance and muscle found a way through to us, and – as usual – he dovetailed perfectly with the man on the other end of the foundation. Although Williams did crank it up for his climactic solo on “Oww”, the drummer kept his contributions within the parameters of Senate Garage’s acoustics, realizing that less was infinitely more, and dropping bombs left and right was not a good strategy.

The standing ovation Cherry and his partners got was a gift from a crowd buzzing from a performance that was infinite and funky at the same time. Jazzstock plans to do more concerts at Senate Garage, although the State
Liquor Authority will only let them sell beer & wine for shows where tickets are sold in advance. I don’t see this as a problem, given that a copious number of drinking establishments are just a short walk from the
Garage’s corner lot; however, Roiger is smart enough to ask Jazzstock’s fan base what they’d like to see served at their shows, and whether they’d be willing to pay admission up front rather than pony up before show time. More news on this story as it develops…

GO HERE to see more of Rudy Lu’s photographs of this concert…

UPCOMING: Jazzstock celebrates Black History Month with a concert by James Weidman & Spiritual Impressions at Senate Garage in Kingston at 7:30pm on Saturday, February 17. The band features James Weidman (piano), Ruth Naomi Floyd (vocals), Teri Roiger (vocals), Anthony E. Nelson, Jr. (reeds), John Menegon (bass) and Tony Jefferson (drums). Tickets are $25.

Jay Collins

Jay Collins

Ed Cherry, Jay Collins, John Menegon and Steve Williams

Ed Cherry, Jay Collins, John Menegon and Steve Williams

Jay Collins and John Menegon

Jay Collins and John Menegon

Ed Cherry

Ed Cherry

John Menegon and Steve Willliams

John Menegon and Steve Williams