The Sterbank/Suarez Ensemble
Father Egbert J. Figaro Hall
The syncopated rhythms of bossa nova, samba, and cool jazz filled the listening room at Figaro Hall on Saturday evening as vocalist Leah Suárez and saxophonist Mark Sterbank led their septet through a smooth and smoky set of tunes. They modeled their Getz/Gilberto program after the famous jazz-tinged collaborations between American saxophonist Stan Getz, Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto, and composer and pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim in the mid 1960s. The nearly sold-out 7 p.m. concert was part of the Jazz Artists of Charleston's ongoing JAC Jazz Series at the King Street venue.
The ensemble's frontline featured some of the JAC's full-time execs. Suárez stepped into the lead singer role, Astrud Gilberto-style, on the opening song, a velvety rendition of "The Girl from Ipanema." Suárez accented and emphasized each line in her own way. Sterbank and trumpeter Charlton Singleton complemented Suárez's delicate singing with melodic, softly executed solos before acoustic guitarist Duda Lucena chimed in with a verse in Portuguese.
"It Might as Well be Spring" started a little slow but quickly gained momentum after Sterbank gave the rhythm section — percussionist Gino Castillo (playing mostly shakers and a cajón) and double bassist Reggie Sullivan — a little nod and gesture. Suárez sang in a silky tone of quiet nights of quiet stars on the breezy "Corcovado."
Thy picked up the pace mid-set with some lively variations on various Getz numbers. An intense work-out on "A Singing Song" — a polyrhythmic composition by longtime Getz vibes man Gary Burton in tricky 6/8 time — stood out as a complex detour, with terrific solos by pianist Gerald Gregory and bassist Sullivan. A sparse and melancholic version of Getz's "Here's That Rainy Day" calmed the mood down a bit. They closed with a slow-rolling but cheerful reworking of "Summertime," a standard at many Getz concerts back in the day. Sterbank's feathery delivery allowed room for dynamic interplay with Singleton's sturdy, Miles Davis-leaning horn lines and Suárez's shyly emotive voice. The audience loved it.
The final JAC Jazz Series events at Figaro Hall this week include performances by Modus Bone, Gennaro's Jazz Ensemble, Cameron and the C-Notes, and the Charleston Latin Jazz Collective. Visit jazzartistsofcharleston.org for more.