Clinton Swanson and Melody. (Rod Wilson file)

Clinton Swanson and Melody. (Rod Wilson file)

Review of Melody Diachun Jazz Quintet concert, Live at Studio 64, October 28, 2017

A little sax makes a lot of difference

MIKE REDFERN For the Bulletin

When Melody Diachun added a saxophone to the line-up for her concert at Studio 64 last Saturday, she turned her laid-back quartet into a dynamic quintet. Clinton Swanson’s hot jazz solos and more mellow accompaniments to Melody’s vocals added a sultriness to the songs not easily achievable with the traditional quartet backing of guitar, bass, and drums. Not that Doug Stephenson on guitar, Mark Spielman on bass, and Steve Parrish on drums didn’t hold their own in contributing to the overall quality of the sounds this group produced. Each is a virtuoso in his own right and we were given ample evidence of this in the frequent solos that interspersed each number.

It was an interesting program, reflecting the musical tastes of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, a period when jazz moved from the traditional Dixieland jazz of the first half of the century to a variety of modern jazz interpretations of other contemporary musical styles by bands across Europe and North America. For this concert Diachun had selected what seemed at first glance an unlikely repertoire of Beatles and Bossa Nova numbers, given that the one is British rock and the other Brazilian samba & jazz. As it turned out, this was an inspired combination, providing changes of mood and rhythm that were endlessly entertaining.

Among the many fine renditions of popular songs from these two sources were a number of highlights to which the audience responded with particular enthusiasm. The bossa nova number, The Girl from Ipanema, by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, followed immediately by Lennon and McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby was, perhaps, the first high point reached and a tender rendition of Paul McCartney’s Blackbird, a song about a black woman fleeing oppression in the USA, was definitely the second. My personal favourite was a tender duet sung by Melody to husband Doug Stephenson’s scintillating accompaniment on guitar of John Lennon’s Imagine. Left me with a lump in my throat!

That the almost full house enjoyed this concert was made clear by the clamour for an encore. It certainly was a most satisfying evening of music, perhaps all the more so for the nostalgia felt by many of us who were around when these songs were first heard.

We are fortunate to have so many excellent musicians resident in the Kootenays to provide us with music to suit almost every taste. Up next at Studio 64 is the classical cello–piano duo of Paul Marleyn and Mauro Bertoli from Ottawa on Wednesday, November 8, playing a selection of cello-piano sonatas and other works. The concert starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $25. Then, on Friday, November 17, the six-piece Rooster Blues Band from Calgary will conclude this season’s Live at Studio 64 series with a concert that promises to be lively enough for dancing. Advance tickets for this are $22 KAC members, $24 non-members, or $26 at the door. Call Centre 64 at 250-427-4919 or email for more information.