Concord Jazz March 11, 2005
Concord Jazz Festival Dazzles Cerritos
by Glen Creason
The Concord Jazz Festival swung through Cerritos over the weekend; a little sleeper show of sensational singing and fresh talent. The California Jazz label's vocalist cornerstones of the evening were Oleta Adams, Karrin Allyson, Sara Gazarek and the redoubtable Diane Schuur. I place them in an alpha list since each was so fine in their own right, bringing diverse but great talent to each number in the full night of great music.
Karrin Allyson hosted and did a yeoman's job of joining in duets and introducing the stars. Her show opening reading of the Joni Mitchell classic "Help Me" set the tone of an evening of excellent musical taste and challenges to the vocal chords. Still there seems to be no note Ms. Allyson cannot reach as she demonstrated in the sweet "Over and Over Again" and a goose-bump rising duet on "Imagine" with Oleta Adams. Miss Allyson is a singer who should be sought out and savored for her intelligence and excellent voice.
The sweet-faced newcomer Sara Gazarek, just a few moons this side of graduation from the Thornton School of Music at USC followed, providing hope for the future. La Gazarek, like some footballers from her alma mater seems ready for the big time. Unshaken by the big crowd and awe-inspiring talent sharing the stage with her, young Sara showcased a voice like fresh honey, sweetly spreading over fine songs like "the Masquerade Is Over," a delicious "Too Young to Go Steady" (generously loaned her by Karrin Allyson) and a knocked out "Never Will I Marry" with a quarter million dollar arrangement. Tis a shame her CD isn't out yet since she probably could have moved a few hundred at intermission. Take it from an old Bruin. This Trojan is a winner.
Oleta Adams finished the first half which is good since her seemingly limitless pipes are a tough act to follow. The beautifully positive Oscar Brown Jr. song "As Long As You Are Living" stood like a beacon of hope over the hall and the light "Soldato Samba" sent the giddy crowd to the lobby wanting more. Ms. Adams started part two where she left off with "Deed I Do," "New York State of Mind" the stirring anthem "Get There" and probably the highlight of a fantastic show in "Circle of One" with Karrin Allyson and Sara Gazarek joining joyfully.
Of course, many came to hear Diane "Deedles" Schuur and she did not disappoint, bringing the house down with "Deedles Blues," an absolutely exquisite "When October Goes," the languid masterpiece of "Louisiana Sunday Afternoon" a sweet "So In Love" with her husband adding support and a bluesy duet with Oleta of "Stormy Monday." What Deedles does with her voice is impossible to put on paper but suffice it to say that many in the hall listened with ears open and mouths agape. If you were to make a Sideways comparison of this group you would have to say Oleta is a fine, rich burgundy; Karrin Allyson a wonderful vintage of Cabernet, Sara Gazarek an outstanding, delicate Pinot Noir and Diane Schuur a fine champagne. All of the ladies joined to ride this thoroughbred of a show to the finish. "That's All" showed a lot about the camaraderie and common love of the music in this quartet as they sang and smiled broadly at their opportunity to share the stage. An encore of Al Green's classic "Let's Stay Together" voiced hopes in a reunion next year. Certainly the delighted Cerritos house added their voices to a vote for a return of these fine artists.