On summer Sundays in Buffalo, especially those glorious moments when temperatures are favorable and there’s a slight breeze wafting out over Hoyt Lake, sitting and listening to a free jazz concert outside the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is a good thing. Such was the case Sunday when Doug “Trigger” Gaston’s quintet played a couple of sets before a comfortable-size crowd.
As is the case with any number of musical ensembles, the name of the group is a mutable thing, dependent more on who was contracted for the gig than anything else. Anyone at the Sunday show who has checked out the Anchor Bar on Thursday nights recently will probably have recognized the players as The Jazz Example, an outfit currently led by saxophonist Bilal Abdullah and featuring Gaston on keyboards, Greg Piontek on bass, drummer Lester Robinson and vocalist Lady Lita.
This is the latest version of a band that used to be led by drummer Jimmy Gomes and backed up by singers Sharon Bailey and local legend Dodo Green. Gaston, Abdullah and Piontek are the only holdovers from those lineups and there is a lot to be said for the rhythm section’s continuity (even with the relatively recent addition of Robinson on the kit) and the alternating musical leads taken by Gaston and Abdullah.
The set lists included at least one Gaston original, a tune by Wayne Shorter and chestnuts such as “April in Paris” and “Let’s Fall in Love” along with a fine medley of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and “With a Song in My Heart”. Everyone got their chances to display their skills and, after a pleasant but unremarkable start, the band began to hit its stride.
Lady Lita sang only a couple of tunes in each of the two sets, making most of the concert a quartet affair. When she did sing, it was a mixed blessing, partially because the microphones either lacked the necessary power to propel her voice into the audience or she is more of an intimate cabaret type singer. (To be fair, Gaston’s introductions were also a bit on the sotto voce side.)
Her take on “Let’s Fall in Love” revealed a nice, rich tone but also showed that her upper range, at least in this instance, was a bit constricted. Things improved, however, when she launched into the aforementioned medley, a piece where the arrangement was a better fit for abilities.
When all things are considered, the good far outweighed the adequate. The music was pleasant, the musicians were solid, the weather was great, and members of the audience were comfortable with where they were and what they were hearing. Chalk it all up to another successful entry in the summer jazz series at the Albright-Knox.