"Hot House" jazz magazine has started a tradition of honoring a group of new and established musicians, recently offering a varied and compelling awards show last week at the Metropolitan Room.
In a ceremony dedicated to the memory the legendary sax and flute artist Frank Wess, Warren Vache, veteran trumpet whiz and wit emceed the proceedings. He worked just slightly blue --eschewing many of the niceties or self-congratulatory sentiment that such an event can muster. Vache was central to the entertainment factor.
Bernie Furshpan, the Met's owner and manager, has set out to make the club an all-purpose listening room for a variety of worthy performers in a cabaret environment. Jazz players, Great American Songbook interpreters, and more contemporary acts, including but not limited to vocal talent showcases fill the room as Bernie lovingly serves up the whole megillah. His warmth and enthusiasm spread joy in a business that often surrenders to cynicism. Bernie projects an inviting Yiddishkeit that brings to mind the impresarios of yore. Mr. Furshpan merits a profile of his own, but I am sure he would be amenable to my moving on to the event I just recently enjoyed.
And boy, I was in for some surprises, for although flautist/saxophonist Don Braden, guitarist John Hart and clarinetist Anat Cohen (a trio of the richest sounding and hardest working pros in the business) were honored, I was also newly introduced to the multi-talented singer, pianist and trumpet miming Devin Bing.
Although a total original, Bing, a bit of a crooner, also harkens back to the traditions of melodic jazz -- totally accessible with the charisma of a "Golden Age" entertainer. Blessed with his own sound, not really resembling Harry Connick Jr., I can't imagine a fan of his or Michael Buble not being taken hostage by Devin's talents. Conversely, the aficionados of pure jazz greats such as Kurt Elling and Mark Murphy might realize much pleasure when exposed to an ear full of Bing. His electrifying pianism is matched by a well-pitched voice, able to sing a controlled straight tone adding a small, healthy dose of vibrato, in a very homogenous, natural way. Mr. Bing must be seen live as video cannot capture the excitement he generates. Check out the schedule at Metropolitanroom.com -- as he will appear monthly -- his next show coming up on Thursday Sept. 28th.
Sonny Rollins, Phil Woods, Wycliffe Gordon and Stefon Harris, were also included, to the proud delight of the "newbies."
Publisher Gwen Kelly must be commended by all for her absolute conviction and hard work in taking stewardship of the "Jazz Bible," Hot House, a monthly print (yes that still exists--print) and on-line magazine. Stoically performing the day-to-day duties required to sustain this thirty-five-year-old institution, this glamorous, iron-willed French woman fuels the mystique and endurance of this treasured publication.
The oldest jazz magazine in New York, Hot House is the only periodical in the New York metro area devoted solely to previews of upcoming jazz events. To quote Gwen:
"Month after month, year after year since 1982, Hot House has offered insight and enthusiasm to both longtime jazz fans and newcomers to the scene, reaching its goal to inform each reader, help promote events and bring an audience to the performances."
Visit Hot House and make sure to pick your copy at jazz and cabaret rooms throughout the city.