Bess has been a mainstay on the Detroit jazz scene since the days of
the fine Downtown dinner clubs. She was a regular performer at Jack Brokensha's,
when the great vibist from Down-Under had his own dinner club, and she also
appeared regularly at the Top of The Flame, as well as the Pontchartrain.
She continues to perform at local clubs and concerts, and until recently
held forth every Monday evening at the Blue Pointe Restaurant on the east
side, where she lives. She also appeared at the Michigan Jazz Festival this
summer at the Botsford Inn. If you are not familiar with the music of Bess
Bonnier, this CD is a great introduction. If you were a fan of Bess', and
haven't heard her recently, this CD will serve to renew an old acquaintance.
Bess is joined in this set by bassist and jazz provocateur Paul Keller,
a kindred spirit whom she first met in 1984 and who shares her unique and
oblique sense of musical fun. Paul is known to many of you as the leader
of the Bird of Paradise Orchestra and as co-leader, with Cary Kocher,
of the Keller/Kocher Quartet, which like the BOPO appears frequently at
the Bird of Paradise in Ann Arbor.
Cary Kocher on vibes and Pete Siers on drums, also from the Keller/Kocher
Quartet, round out the roster, giving Bess an accompanying group that regularly
performs together as a unit. The result is a very tight and well-rehearsed
set that is also very relaxed and loose.
The program features several tunes that are classics of Great American
Song, as you would expect if you know Bess. Bess not only knows all the
great songs of Kern, Porter, Rogers, Gershwin and Arlen, she even knows
the little-performed verses. Here, Jerome Kern's "All the Things You
Are" begins with solo piano at ballad tempo, including the verse, before
Bess is joined by the group at a light swing, ending with some delightful
Baroque counterpoint between piano, vibes and bass. Richard Roger's "Spring
is Here" is solo piano throughout with Bess providing a provocative
reharmonization of this beautiful tune.
Reflecting Bess' creative tongue-in-cheek irreverence, "These Foolish
Things" and "My Favorite Things" are combined so that the
lyrics of each are sung against the tune of the other. Not only does it
work, it plays! In "Ah, Paris!" four songs written about the French
city are combined into a suite, ending with Dave Frishberg's irreverent
"Another Song About Paris."
Of particular interest are the crisp and lively performances given to
Clifford Brown's classic "Joy Spring," which opens the set, and
Shorty Roger's less known "Aurex" which closes the set in swinging
fashion. In between are a set of three fine gems composed by Bess. "Cote
D'Azur" is a beautiful, stately three-quarter time, minor key theme
that will trigger reminiscences of the French Riviera even if you have never
been there. "Los Notas De Amor," which when translated becomes
the title tune, is a fast-paced Samba which dances, sings, and drifts in
and out of a walking four. Listen especially to the piano and vibes riffing
behind Pete Sier's drum chords. "All of Paul" is Bess' tribute
to her bassist and co-conspirator, and features a complex bop line over
the changes of "All of Me" stated in unison by Bess, Cary and
Paul, who makes the shift to the front line effortlessly.
Altogether, this is a set filled with love
and joy, and a quirky exuberance. It is also a set perfectly performed by
polished professionals at the top of their craft. Enjoy.