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Jazz Review

Trotter Gives His Regards to Broadway

November 16, 2000|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Broadway musicals have been a source of material for jazz artists since the golden era of the '20s and '30s. Although the songs were composed to function within a dramatic context, often with sophisticated, multilayered lyrics, the music that flowed from the pens of George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and many others was filled with sweeping melodies and provocative harmonic schemes. Precisely the sort of rich lode of potential improvisation and variation that most appeals to jazz musicians and singers.

The post-'60s Broadway musical era, however, has produced far fewer examples of the songs generally referred to as "standards," and it has been the rare jazz artist who has attempted any deep explorations of the material from this period. With the exception, that is, of pianist Terry Trotter, who has extensively mined the work of Stephen Sondheim via albums digging into shows such as "A Little Night Music," "Follies," "Company," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and "Passion."

On Monday night at Catalina Bar & Grill, Trotter unveiled some of the music from his latest CD, a jazz trio interpretation of the Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones songs from the long-running hit musical "The Fantasticks."

Accompanied with brisk, supportive efficiency by bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe LaBarbera, he opened with the show's two best-known numbers, "Try to Remember" and "Soon It's Gonna Rain." Both illustrated Trotter's ease with lyrical melodies, and the manner in which he uses their underlying harmonies to build lush, pianistic variations.

He also wisely added a few more familiar standards to the program, perhaps recognizing the fact that, once past the two prominent hit numbers, "The Fantasticks" is not a particularly provocative musical score. Still, Trotter deserves credit for insisting that Broadway--especially in the person of Sondheim and a few others, such as Schmidt and Jones--continues to produce works that deserve wider consideration from jazz players.

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