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Biltmore Hotel Jazzes Up Its Musical Policy

July 24, 1986|LEONARD FEATHER

Along with the expensive restoration under way at the Biltmore Hotel, a jazz-wise new manager, Ed de Vries, has installed a musical policy that is bringing the midtown area its hippest sounds in years.

In the high-domed Rendezvous Court, where the sound quality exceeds expectations, pianist Marty Harris leads his trio Mondays from 5 p.m. to midnight and Tuesdays through Thursdays from 9 p.m to 1 a.m. Harris, a veteran on the local scene who for years was accompanist to Diana Ross, is an incisive and buoyant mainstreamer whose tastes lean to the better standards ("Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You," "If I Were a Bell") and an occasional swinging blues.

With the stalwart David Stone on bass and Dick Berk's always confident drumming, the trio furnishes agreeable music that will neither make heads turn nor turn anyone off.

Presently alternating in the Court is another pianist, Dick Shreve, whose shifts run Tuesdays through Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 5 p.m. to midnight. Like Harris, Shreve has done his share of backing singers but is modestly at ease on his own, with the help of Paul Morin's bass and Danny Pucillo on drums.

At the hotel's Grand Avenue Bar still another jazz trio is performing, with the same instrumentation but led by John Leitham, a bassist. Leitham's fast-moving fingers enable him to deliver solos of remarkable agility--and, surprisingly, he does it all left-handed.

With him are Tommy Adams, a competent pianist and singer, and Jack LeCompte, a somewhat tentative drummer. The group, heard Mondays through Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m., must have been bothered by excessive noise in a room that has yet to build its retinue of loyal fans. Close attention, however, will reveal that Leitham is a composer of merit; his "Turkish Bizarre," written in 7/4 time, raised an interest level that had remained somewhat static during the conventional run of pop standards.

De Vries, who has a long track record of successfully promoting jazz at hotels around the country, hopes to enlarge the Biltmore's new jazz regimen by adding horns and, perhaps later, a Sunday jazz brunch.

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