Band of Bones at Zinc Bar, 5/15/18 (by Dan Lehner)

PERSONNEL: David Chamberlain (tenor trombone, flute, vocals), Mark Miller, Alex Jeun, Mark Patterson, Matt McDonald, Charley Gordon, Robert Edwards (tenor trombone, auxiliary percussion), Dale Turk, Max Seigel (bass trombone), Kenny Ascher (piano), Dick Sarpola (bass), Mike Campenni (drums), Chembo Corniel (percussion), Antoinette Montague (vocals), Mercedes Ellington (poetry)

SETLIST: “Band of Bones Blues” (Chamberlain), “Recado” (Djaima Ferrera/Luiz Antonio), “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” (Billy Strayhorn), “All Too Soon” (Duke Ellington) “The Purple People and the Green People” (Duke Ellington/Chris Rinaman), “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister)” (Quincy Jones/Rod Temperton), “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” (traditional)

HIGHLIGHTS: Mercedes Ellington (Duke’s granddaughter) read her grandfather’s “The Purple People and the Green People,” a parabolic poem that was an excerpt from “My People,” in tandem with a florid, storytelling musical accompaniment that ebbed and flowed with the moods of the piece.

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There’s a type of bandleader – defined not by genre but by general intuition – that knows how to use the trombone to its fullest extent. For Dave Chamberlain, there are two disparate but equally indispensable groups of people who belong in that category – the mambo and Latin jazz impresarios like Tito Puente and Eddie Palmeri and the big band royalty of composers like Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Absent the heterogeneous textures of trumpets and saxophones, Band of Bones carries on the legacy of groups like Slide Hampton’s World of Trombones where warm backgrounds and soaring melodies melt into each other, and BoB’s set at Zinc Bar (in celebration of their CD release) chose these two groups as catalysts to further carve out their role in that lineage.

BoB kept the Latin and straight-ahead sounds in a refreshing shuffle. The pithy “Band of Bones Blues,” a plunger-driven mission statement sung by Chamberlain, gave way to a spry rendition of “Recado,” featuring a brightly manic but dexterous solo by Alex Jeun and a rhythmically bouncy one from Dale Turk. Their version of Strayhorn’s “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” managed to encompass both idioms, the delicate, forest-like dispersion of the melody giving way to a mambo deconstruction. Ellington’s slightly obscure “All Too Soon” was given a gorgeous arrangement by Max Seigel, marked by lush chords and a stereophonic volley between the flanking bass trombones.

The set’s centerpieces both painted the impression of an unseen genius working magic from beyond. Mercedes Ellington brought a theatrical flair to the proceedings by reciting her grandfather’s poem “The Green People and the Purple People,” a parabolic piece where Duke’s warnings of war and jealousy were set to an original, musically responsive score. On their rendition of Tito Puente’s classic “Picadillo,” Robert Edwards and Matt McDonald gave harmonically unpredictable solos full of original character, but everyone eventually bowed to the master Barry Rogers by playing a harmonized rendition of his iconic solo, a joyous but stern reminder of what the platonic ideal of Latin trombone playing is like.

Not to be too austere, Band of Bones brought out vocalist Antoinette Montague to close the set in a bluesy and vivacious way. Montague’s swoops and bends on The Color Purple’s “Miss Celie’s Blues” recalled the amicable soul of Dinah Washington, giving similar vocal treatment to “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” Not to waste the obvious opportunity, the band stood up on the latter to give a hell of a second line, elevating the group energy to bring the set to a charming close.

by Dan Lehner