Friday, March 14, 2008

Introducing on Violin . . .

Bassist Milt Hinton’s Playing the Changes is a valuable book for a number of reasons (review coming soon, I promise), but it happens to be a timely reminder of the oft over-looked importance of the violin in jazz history. Hinton actually started his career on violin and his stint with violinist Eddie South’s group brought him critical early exposure. Yet despite the legacy of jazz greats like South, Stuff Smith, Ray Nance, and Joe Venuti, the violin is often under-recognized as an instrument for jazz soloist, so it is great to hear up-and-coming artist Sarina Suno keeping the jazz violin tradition alive and vital.

Last night Suno led her quartet (guitar, bass, and drums) at the Aruba Bar & Lounge, sort of a hidden venue in the City, but an advantageous spot to hear live music. (There is not a bad seat in the house of you can snag one.) Suno has been playing with guitarist Hara Garacci for several years and it shows in their relaxed musical compatibility. This is the second time I have heard them live and I remain quite impressed.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the funky arrangement of “Summertime,” a standard I usually find far too maudlin. Here they transformed it into something that grooves, yet stayed true to its original spirit. They also performed a similar trick with the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love.” For some reason, the compositions of Chick Corea adapt to violin particularly gracefully. Suno and company performed both “Spain,” her favorite standard overall and “La Fiesta,” my own Corea tune of choice (previous youtube clips here).

It is important to go out to hear and encourage new artists like Suno at live shows. You will hear the future of the music in intimate settings, and in the case of Suno’s group, you will definitely enjoy the music. If you do not get to New York often, her debut album, Introducing, is available from itunes. Featuring her tour-de-force “Spain” and guest appearances by Mike Stern on the lovely “Sarina’s Ballad” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing” it is a very rewarding spin.