Arias and Art Songs Redefined through Jazz Improvisation

The Concert Series of the Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula (CCMP) presented Heidi Van der Veer and Hart Smith in a unique program Sunday afternoon February 25, 2018. This was not the usual predictable vocal recital, but rather a unique blend of the classical and jazz.  The program was advertised as “Arias and Art Songs Redefined through Jazz Improvisation.” As hostess for the afternoon, Janice Griffin, a local singer and performer in her own right, made the introductions as well as described the efforts of the CCMP Concert Series as outreach.

Audience members were greeted with Smith’s warm-up featuring Satie-ish melodies with a soft jazz edge and bosa nova undertones. Three main selections were chosen for the program from Bach’s St Matthew Passion, Verdi’s Il Trovatore, and Faure’s Au Bord de L’eau. Starting in the balcony with Smith on trumpet as introduction, Van der Veer joined in for an impressive duo in classic style. Smith returned to the piano as Van der Veer finished a cappella. As she returned to the front stage, Smith evolved the Bach melody into smooth jazz licks. As Smith continued, Van der Veer, looking smart in an understated shimmering vintage dress picked up in Switzerland, joined in with jazz scat. Bach, even in the minor and serious chordal progressions of the Passion, provided a terrific underpinning for morphing into jazz chords. A similar treatment was in store for the Verdi – classical Trovatore aria winding its way into classic jazz progressions.

Smith provided a piano interlude featuring echoes of Thelonious Monk’s “Ask Me Now” and “Body and Soul.” Another introduction of classic to modern was the well-known Borodin “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads” which actually started out as a string quartet. Bizet’s “March of the Kings” found its way into a big band arrangement of “Bizet Has His Day”- another easily recognizable graft between styles.

As befits an afternoon of improvisation, Smith requested Van der Veer perform the Edith Piaf classic “La Vie en Rose.” Piaf wrote the poetry with Louiguy and Marguerite Monnot writing the music. Louis Armstrong also made a popular version in the 50’s.

Rounding out the afternoon, Faure’s Au Bord de L’eau took the spotlight with Van der Veer’s lovely French entrancing and enhancing the basic melody before sliding into vocal improvisation more than ably supported and accompanied by Smith. Slyly woven into the piano improve was a bit of Gershwin Summertime.

Bookending the program, Smith continued smooth jazz perfect for a Sunday afternoon’s relaxing. A unique presentation of two local artists combining their own strengths to stretch out and join for something new. Perhaps there will be a sequel? Wait and see.

Griffin returned to thank performers and audience alike, and inviting all to the next presentation in the Church’s Concert series – Steven Rushingwind and Native American Flute on Sunday March 25th.

End

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