Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks
One of these things is not like the other.
If Massry Center impresario Salvatore Prizio wanted to showcase two extremes of the same genre, this was the bill to do it. The question was, who would break first: The traditionalists who had come to see Nippertown’s living legend of trad-piano jazz, or the younger generation that was drawn to Allison’s latest efforts to push the music forward?
Watching Shaw being escorted across the stage by her long-time bassist Rich Syracuse makes you grit your teeth. Her various health issues have been well documented, so it wasn’t a surprise to see her on a portable oxygen unit as she haltingly stepped over various cables and sat gingerly down on the piano bench. (“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she told us. “It’s a little complicated, as you see.”) Nevertheless, the effect was the same as watching an old friend or a cherished relative going through pain you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
But then we witnessed what I call the Brubeck Effect – named for jazz icon Dave Brubeck, who shows every inch of his 92 years when he moves or speaks. But when you sit Brubeck down at a piano, the years and the pain zip into the nearest Black Hole, and he’s ripping through “Blue Rondo a la Turk” like he’d just written it the day before. For Shaw, her crossover piece was Billy Taylor’s “Easy Walker,” the opening track of her disc Live in Graz, and Shaw was on it like white on rice as Syracuse and drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel kicked it off.