Keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith started slowly and built to a crushing crescendo with his repetitive, hypnotic, long sweeps of sound at the Beverly Theater on Saturday night. Smith's music has a sweetness, a warmth that inevitably reaches out to his audience, without being cloying or clingy.
Accompanied by David Metcen on bass and drummer Dwayne Perdue, Smith offered three flawless jazz pieces, then introduced the first guest, Noel Pointer, who immediately began playing with the crowd, having his blue amplified violin talk to them sensuously, moving into a couple of hit numbers and closing with a new piece, "Women and Children."
Pointer exited, and trumpeter Tom Browne took over the main spotlight, bringing with him singer Theonita Wideman. The two of them blended trumpet and voice, and each took solos. Browne's fluegelhorn is affecting and mellow, his trumpet playing tending more to blandness. He also manned a mini-synthesizer from time to time, eventually moving into a funk beat.
Smith retired at this point, and Browne brought on vibes star Roy Ayers. He went right into a finger-flying up-tempo number that sounded like a redressed "Speak Low," then introduced singer Lilianday Jackson, and the two of them did a high-spirited version of Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia." Several numbers from Ayers' latest Columbia album followed, including the title track "In the Dark," and a hilarious rap piece called "Poo Poo La La," which had the audience roaring. Ayers has become a fine showman, yet hasn't neglected his playing.
On the negative side, damaging this otherwise seamless, multilayered show was a sound system that was tuned so high that many of the subtleties were lost.