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One jam session to count on

John Pisano and a revolving roster of players find harmony in improvisation.

September 04, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

John Pisano's guitar nights are high on the list of Southland jazz pleasures -- a series of musical encounters that have sequenced their way through at least three different jazz rooms over the last seven years. Regardless of the setting, the game plan has remained constant: an intimate evening of improvisational interaction between Pisano and another well-known jazz guitarist.

On Tuesday at Spazio in Sherman Oaks, the guest artist was the veteran Mundell Lowe, with bassist John Gianelli adding a strong but subtle rhythmic foundation. Lowe, like Pisano, has seemingly played with everyone. In addition to gigs with Billie Holiday, Benny Carter and Art Farmer, he has been an active studio musician and a film and television composer for more than five decades.

That rich experience was lavished upon a delightful buffet of standards and jazz classics. Tunes from the Great American Songbook ("I'll Remember You," "Body and Soul," "Embraceable You"), bebop specials ("Scrapple From the Apple") and bossa nova ("Desafinado"), all flowing with easy dexterity and exquisite musicality.

In true jam-session fashion, each tune was chosen spontaneously and performed in an instant arrangement. There was brisk back-and-forth riffing in "Stompin' at the Savoy," impromptu counterpoint in "Yesterdays" and a Latin-tinged "Body and Soul."

The soloing was equally outstanding, especially Lowe's rendition of "Embraceable You" and Pisano's take on "I Thought About You."

Working closely together on "Desafinado," they hit a musical high point, beautifully matching each other's every creative twist and turn.

Pisano's guitar nights -- with no cover charge -- continue this month with guest artists Pat Kelley on Tuesday and Jamie Findley on Sept. 16.

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