The Honolulu Jazz Quartet with Junior Choy played at the Volcano Art Center on Saturday, January 15, 2011, at the Kilauea Military Camp theater in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.
Founded in 2001, the HJQ has that glue that only happens when a group is together this long. This glue is the difference between music and magic. Band leader and bassist, John Kolivas; saxophonist, Tim Tsukiyama; pianist, Dan Del Negro; and drummer, Adam Baron, form the groundbreaking ensemble.
The opening numbers highlighted the fresh and innovative originals of bassist Kolivas and a swinging, straight-ahead original by saxophonist Tsukyama. The rhythms, melodies and harmonics exuded brilliance and wit.
Drummer Adam Baron was the core improviser on Kolivas’ memorable and humorous autobiographical original “The Heater”. Kolivas’ takes the audience on an auditory journey of a baffled Hawaiian dealing with a noisy furnace on a sleepless cold winter night in a New York City apartment house.
Later in the set the band introduced Big Island’s favorite maestro, Volcano Choy on trumpet. Kolivas and Choy were childhood friends and formed a band in high school. The group of teenagers scored a steady gig on Waikiki that lasted for years. Trumpeter, Choy, surprised audiences with his beautiful vocal rendition of Freddie Hubbard’s jazz waltz, “Up Jumped Spring”.
Next the set opened up to “jazz royalty”. In the audience was none other than Ray Brown Jr., the son of legendary bassist, Ray Brown, and “the first lady of song”, Ella Fitzgerald. The HJQ morphed to a hot open session while supporting the charismatic Brown crooning on the classic jazz favorite, “Sunnyside of the Street”.
Moon’s Landing was the perfect opener for the HJQ. Moon’s Landing is headed up by another member of “jazz royalty”: saxophonist, Moon Brown. Brown is nephew to one of the most influential trumpeters of all time, Clifford Brown, Jr., who died tragically at the age of 25 in 1956. Moon Brown charmed the audience with his big personality and fat bluesy sound.
His playing is complemented by the sophisticated song stylist, Maelan Abram. Seasoned much beyond her years, Maelan showed range and versatility with the heart-wrenching ballad, “Masquerade”, and the challenging vocalese riff tune, “Moody’s Mood for Love”. This song was born when Eddie Jefferson put lyrics to James Moody’s brilliant sax solo. “Moody’s Mood for Love” was made popular in 1954 by King Pleasure and Blosson Dearie and was a fresh and exciting selection for the evening. Other selections were crowd-pleasing favorites such as “Route 66” and “Summertime”. The standards were given new life with a layer of complex rhythms delivered by Big Island’s stellar drummer, Bruce David, as well as the dynamic and harmonically riveting solos from the Honokaa piano master, Gary Washburn.
Many thanks to David Wallerstein and the Volcano Arts Center for a wonderful evening of top-notch entertainment.