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Jazz Review : Childers Sticks To The Fluegelhorn

February 13, 1986|LEONARD FEATHER

Since a change of ownership late last year, Alfonse's, the Toluca Lake restaurant, has stepped up its music policy, which now consists of jazz seven nights a week.

Tuesday the incumbents were Buddy Childers, the John Leitham Trio and the singer Diane Varga. For Childers, this was a less-than-typical setting, most of his credentials having been racked up in the trumpet sections of innumerable big bands, from Barnet and Basie to Dorsey and Goodman, not to mention seven stints with Stan Kenton.

On this occasion, he played only fluegelhorn, putting its gentler sound to generally relaxed and fluent use. He does not, however, seem completely adjusted to the horn; occasional minor slips led one to wonder whether he might not advantageously switched back once in a while to the bigger, bolder sound of the trumpet.

Childers' choice of material is as well conceived as the use to which he puts it. "My Funny Valentine" shook off its cobwebs by the back-and-forth use of a fast three beat and a moderate four. His own "Anything" fitted old-timey chords to a buoyant waltz meter.

John Leitham's trio of transplanted Philadelphians is sparked by the astonishing rhythm and solo work of its leader, who plays upright bass left-handed. Tommy Adams' boppish piano and the solid drums of J. J. Le Compte interact well and support Childers capably.

Surprises were the order of the evening in Diane Varga's set. "Under Paris Skies," a 1950s waltz, worked well for her in a breathless up-tempo four-beat conversion. The seldom-heard Andy Razaf lyrics to "Stomping at the Savoy" and her scat duet with Childers' horn on "Bernie's Tune" were apt vehicles for her jazz-tinted sound. The coy, cabaret style treatment of "I Enjoy Being a Girl" was uncomfortably out of place in this context.

As was evidenced in his recent album (recorded during his two-year residency in Chicago), Childers needs a full orchestra to express himself totally both as composer and soloist. However, if he intends to continue playing small group jobs, he has found a backup unit that will be well suited to his needs, and a singer who serves as a compatible partner.

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