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JAZZ REVIEW

Guitars converse superbly

A happy swap of creativity ensues when Joe Beck visits John Pisano's salon.

October 27, 2005|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

SOMETHING amazing happens every Tuesday night in Sherman Oaks. In the elegant but cozy upstairs atmosphere of Spazio jazz supper club, you will hear a continuing parade of the world's finest jazz guitarists. Week after week, host John Pisano showcases marvelous musical conversations -- all spontaneous -- between his guitar and those of players of every style and manner.

Tuesday night offered a particularly appealing combination with the presence of New York-based Joe Beck. Too rarely heard in the Southland, Beck is a veteran artist with credits ranging from Miles Davis (he was his first guitarist) and Duke Ellington to Laura Nyro and Paul Simon. He also is an extraordinarily impressive improviser.

Starting their opening set with "Alone Together," Pisano and Beck delivered one richly harmonic number after another -- "Like Someone in Love," "Too Late Now," "Body and Soul." The formats were relatively simple: Beck usually began with a brief solo statement of the melody, followed by Pisano, bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Kendall Kay picking up the rhythm, solos for everyone and an all-join-in closing. The magic was in how all this was done.

Beck's virtuosity was present in every solo -- richly chorded melody lines, strummed accents articulated with the crisp excitement of a big-band horn section, consistently appealing harmonic choices, delivered with almost casual inventiveness. Pisano, always a brilliant accompanist and musical partner, seemed unusually stirred by the interaction with an old pro companion, offering his own superb solos and frequently triggering impromptu contrapuntal soloing with Beck.

Good stuff, all of it. And, while this particular night was remarkable, other Tuesday guitar nights at Spazio offer their own wonders. If you need a reason to go to the Valley, here it is.

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