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JAZZ REVIEW : Pianist Grauer's Intimate Style

June 20, 1989|LEONARD FEATHER

Just two blocks farther south on Highland Avenue, away from the Sturm und Drang at the Hollywood Bowl, a subtler and more intimate brand of jazz was offered Sunday by the trio of pianist Joanne Grauer.

"Windows on Hollywood" at the Hollywood Holiday Inn is a Sunday brunch series, now in its second year, under the aegis of the Los Angeles Jazz Society. Grauer, a lissome local presence whose influence has been limited by her infrequent recording activity, has a gentle but firm way with the standard repertoire.

Most of what was heard during her first two sets Sunday was based on fairly conventional material; many of the old predictables tended to resurface, from "All the Things You Are" to "Stella by Starlight."

The latter was illuminated by a passage in which John Leitham, the left-handed virtuoso of the upright bass, told a fleetly eloquent story during his solo. He later doubled the melody line with Grauer during Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You."

As Leitham has said: "This is the closest I can get to playing with Bill Evans," and indeed some of the oblique melodic reharmonizations associated with that lamented genius do surface in Grauer's more enlightened moments.

Completing the group was Bert Karl, a drummer from Vienna who performed the discrete function required in a less-is-better unit of this kind. His understatement was a valuable factor in such songs as Victor Young's "Beautiful Love" and the German antique of Dietrich renown, "Falling in Love Again."

All that is missing in a Joanne Grauer performance is a clearer sense of identity, which might well be achieved through the use of her considerable but seldom-exposed talent as a composer.

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