Smoke Jazz Club – Tonight was my first experience at SMOKE, a very busy Upper West Side club with an ever-growing crowd of fans. Its owner, Paul Stache, also announces the musicians, greets guests at the door, and converses at the tables. He even has a Jazz for Kids series on Saturdays and multiple Sunday Jazz Brunch events. Dinner or “bar food” menus are plentiful. Tonight’s group, listed as a regular Wednesday, three-set series, was called Eve Cornelious & Mosaic, featuring Jeremy Pelt. The vibrant vocalist, Ms. Cornelious, has devoted followers, who even get to sing-along later on in the show. Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Clark Gayton on trombone, Carlton Holmes on piano, Andrew Klein on bass, and Lawrence Leathers on drums complete the group.
This third set opened with rousing brass, as Pelt and Gayton stood side by side with Holmes, Smith, and Leathers in spontaneous, jumping Swing. I and my jazz guest were seated right up close to the stage, so we took in the full sound effect. The band has a great vibe, and the club’s acoustics are superb. When Ms. Cornelious joined the group, she mentioned that’s she’s from North Carolina, as she got up close and personal, before sliding into “Hey Little Girl”. Ms. Cornelious has rich vocal talent, and she immediately engaged the audience. Pelt repeated her theme on smooth trumpet interpretations, complimented by Holmes’ melting chords on piano. Ms. Cornelious shifted to Burt Bacharach’s “Wives and Lovers”, then a poignant rendition of “Give Me the Simple Life”. Gayton, on sumptuous trombone, had an imposing presence, with golden tonal arrangements and billowy refrains.
When the band took on the Gershwins’ “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, Ms. Cornelious added scat to the mix, with sultry, sexy vowels. The set ripened fast, as Gayton belted out the theme with dramatic flair, assisted by the inspired Klein on bass. “But the World Goes Round” had momentum like a caravan, as Leathers was featured on energized drums, led by Pelt on his commanding trumpet. Ms. Cornelious mixes the set with persuasive asides to the crowd, helping to promote programs and events at the Club. During some soulful, gospel-infused lyrics, Ms. Cornelious brings her microphone about the room, encouraging the guests to sing a repetitive phrase, which they do with joy. Jeremy Pelt, on flugelhorn, led some sweeping, end-of-the-evening finales. You can catch Eve Cornelious & Mosaic, featuring Jeremy Pelt, every Wednesday night at SMOKE.
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
( Images Courtesy of Marco Losavio )