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Jazz Reviews : Rowles-O'Hara Group at Donte's

November 20, 1987|LEONARD FEATHER

Sometimes, strange as it may seem, little oaks from great acorns grow. The small band heard Wednesday evening at Donte's was clearly an offshoot of Maiden Voyage, the big band that is now regrettably inactive.

Co-leaders of this five-piece unit are Stacy Rowles on fluegelhorn and trumpet, and Betty O'Hara, who plays valve trombone, with occasional side ventures on the double belled euphonium and the fluegelhorn.

Though they brought some written music along, informality was the keynote. Usually Rowles would state a theme while O'Hara limned out a casual counterpoint. On "Nobody Else But Me" O'Hara sang an airily charming vocal, with Rowles backing her on muted trumpet.

The two horns interacted well, though most of the group's value stemmed from the consistently rewarding solos that took up most of the time. Neal Hefti's attractive tune "Fred," and such staples as "Secret Love" and "Speak Low," provided adequate outlets for the leaders as well as for Liz Kinnon, an economic but eloquent pianist, and for the remarkable Mary Ann McSweeney on bass.

We live in an age when the extraordinary becomes the norm. Either there are simply no inferior bass players left or they are all out of work--as they should be when talent like McSweeney's is available.

Jeanette Rate, the regular drummer, was replaced on this gig by Sherman Ferguson, a highly qualified sub, who ended the set with a quirky solo consisting of rhythmic hand claps.

The Rowles-O'Hara fivesome offers first rate, versatile illustrations of where the jazz mainstream flows at this enlightened point in time. Donte's has invited the group back on Dec. 2.

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