A Familiar Blue: Jazz fills the Edye Second Space

Friday night, as no more than fifty curious heads crowded the Edye, an undersized 1,800 square-foot music room, an all too familiar shade of blue fogged the air.

It was jazz.

Led by vocalist Sherry Williams, the quartet-ensemble consisting of pianist Jon Mayer, bassist Richard Simon and drummer Roy McCurdy, took listeners on a rhythmic journey of pleasurable highs and melancholic lows.

The beginning of the eight-song set was easy, the warm up. With listeners waiting patiently in the dimly-lit yet heavily shadowed classroom, the white-haired Richard Simon on bass kept audience members in a mild equilibrium with his gradual rises and sensitive declines.

And with the 77-year-old Jon Mayer there to compliment him on piano, the two veterans seemingly had no trouble taking turns in breaking down the virgin ears of listeners early on.

Mayer, a proud New York native, brought along with him an elementary bebop style that you can only admire. As he grew comfortable, one would note his passionate left-shoulder lean, where the finesse motions of his right hand and sensitive compliment of his left, became so much their own entity that logical rhythmic responses were momentarily disregarded.

By the third song though, it became clear that there was a correlation between an exponentially increasing tempo and the artists’ improvisational decline.

Midway through the fourth piece; which was entitled “Social Call,” originally arranged by jazz saxophonist Gigi Gryce back in 1955, Richard Simon explored the room with a low-string, in-pocket solo, supported by the nonchalant ones-and-twos of Roy McCurdy on drums.

And after a brief interlude, the quartet resumed with a song entitled “When Sunny gets Blue,” originally composed in 1956 by Marvin Fisher and Jack Segal.

Interestingly enough, because the original piece compositionally favored wind instruments, singer Sherry Williams assumed the role, contorting and distorting her vocal chords in elegance.

And it was in this moment, that the climax of the night began.

At the deepest depths of her tone, Sherry’s lyrics evoked a feeling as though rain was falling, and at the most subtle peak of her vocal strength, the rain would come to a halt. And over and over again, with repetition somewhere at its artistic balance, the rain would fall.

Sherry’s voice took listeners on an emotional ride to their own individual depths. There was an overwhelming feeling of sadness, almost melancholic, that was triggered by lyrical “used-to”s and a brief reference to the word “blue.”

And despite the fact that within the song the rain never seemed to end, listeners were somehow galvanized by their change in mood.

But beautifully enough, the group followed suit with a piece emphasizing the natural role of darkness as it comes before each day. Once again it was Sherry taking the audience to a dark place which was not necessarily uncomfortable, but a place wherein one could confide.

When asked after the show about love, melancholic sadness and why both are so appealing to the average jazz musician, Sherry epitomized human emotion in few sentences.

She responded, “When I’m singing, I’m in a totally safe place.” She says, “I’m not worrying about being judged and I feel free to say exactly how I feel. How I really feel in that moment.”

By beginning the set with an upbeat, bebop style of play and ending with the casual ones, twos, and threes of the southern church, the quartet ensemble did an astounding job at breaking the listener down.

Roy McCurdy, a former colleague of jazz legend Cannonball Adderley and present-day University of Southern California music professor noted, “We did a lot of different things, a lot of different feels,” and as he was commended for keeping the group in unison from his right-stage drum set, he modestly noted, “That’s my job.”

Because the quartet is not a formal group, but rather a group of long time friends, each artist walks their own path. But on Friday night as the stage was set, they together, tinted the Edye blue.