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Threesome Builds on 3 Decades

September 24, 1996|BILL KOHLHAASE | SPECIAL TO THE TIME

SEAL BEACH — There's something to be said for longevity, and that something was in evidence Sunday at Spaghettini, where Pete Jolly's trio played its straight-ahead jazz.

Pianist Jolly, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Nick Martinis first joined in 1965 to play the now-defunct club Donte's in the Valley. No one Sunday was willing to guess how many times the threesome had played since, but the smooth way the music came together made it apparent that these men are familiar with each other to the point of telepathy.

As they introduced a new recording, "Yeah!" on the VSOP label, with an eclectic mix of standards and jazz tunes, that familiarity made even the most time-worn number sparkle and breathe with new life. And when honoring a request for "I Get a Kick Out of You," a tune Jolly said they hadn't played before, they performed (if not seamlessly) with spunk and ingenuity.

Jolly--who brings the group to Spaghettini again tonight--imparts a certain conservative confidence that makes his improvisations easy to follow. There's nothing too demanding, rhythmically or harmonically, to his sound. But that accessibility can make his work particularly satisfying.

His development of "It Might as Well Be Spring" on Sunday was typical. His first venture through the verse and chorus, played solo, was spare and direct and tended to draw the listeners in. The second time through was a bit more florid, expanding upon the melody in a way that still kept it central. Then, with bass and drums joining in, he improvised with even more embellishment, making a detailed statement--but still keeping the melody well in mind.

He paid tribute to his longtime friend and colleague Shorty Rogers with the late trumpeter's "Diablo's Dance," a spirited up-tempo number that highlighted Martinis' ability to swing. "If I Were a Bell" highlighted the drummer's musical way with a solo. "Cabin in the Sky" gave Berghofer a chance to show his lyrical way with a solo as he created flowing statements that were as attractive as the tune's comfortable melody.

Most representative of the trio's spirit was its reading of Sammy Cahn's "Wonder Why," a mid-tempo cruise that found the musicians highlighting each other's work with echoes and accents. Jolly's refined, pithy solo proved that less indeed can be more.

* The Pete Jolly Trio plays tonight at Spaghettini, 3005 Old Ranch Parkway, Seal Beach. 7:30 p.m. No cover. (310) 596-2199.

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