Benny Sharoni, Shawnn Monteiro with Clark Terry
January 1, 1970A fairly routine week to start off the new year. A Calendar pick of vocalist Shawnn Monteiro and her godfather, the wonderful trumpeter Clark Terry, led to a review of their opening set in this morning's Globe. And the Jazz Notes profilee, tenor saxophonist Benny Sharoni, must be the only jazzman to have invaded Beirut with the Israeli army in 1982, at the height of the civil war there.
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A sparkling show of jazz, capped by a legend
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | January 7, 2006
Clark Terry may have been the oldest guy in the room when he and his goddaughter, vocalist Shawnn Monteiro, played the opening set of their two-night stand at Scullers on Thursday. But not by much.
In fact, the gathering of local legends who turned out to catch the 85-year-old trumpet great had the feel of a reunion. Local piano hero Al Vega had a front-row seat. So did Lennie Sogoloff, of the long-gone North Shore club Lennie's on the Turnpike. And longtime Globe music writer Ernie Santosuosso was in the audience, too.
These three knew as well as anyone there what Terry was talking about when he took the stage in the latter half of the show. Scullers entertainment director Fred Taylor, playing straight man, asked him, "Clark, how do you spell legend?"
Terry's deadpan reply: "O-L-D."
By that point, Monteiro and her backing band — pianist John Harrison, bassist Paul Del Nero, and drummer Yoron Israel — had already put on a sparkling show. They set the mood with a pair of upbeat numbers, "That Old Black Magic" and "It Might as Well Be Spring." Then Monteiro shifted gears for a lovely reading of the ballad ''Music That Makes Me Dance," from her album "Visit Me." Harrison played a soft, gorgeous solo on the piece, which had at least one woman in the audience dabbing away tears.
Monteiro mentioned having lost her father, bassist Jimmy Woode, since the last time she'd played Scullers, and moved on to a piece from Duke Ellington's "Degas Suite." It was fitting — Woode and Terry had been best friends while touring together with Ellington's orchestra in the 1950s.
Terry opted for the deeper, more mellifluous sound of his flugelhorn as he joined the band for a pair of instrumental numbers. He started by leading his professorial sidemen (Harrison teaches at UMass-Dartmouth, Del Nero and Israel at Berklee) through an advanced seminar in the blues on "The Hymn," beaming as his sure, concise solo was applauded. "We're going to do a tune that was popularized by Miles Davis," Terry announced next, introducing "I Don't Want to Be Kissed (By Anyone but You)."
Monteiro rejoined Terry onstage for some scat-heavy vocal duets, highlighted by Terry's comically mumbling his way through some nonsense syllables, along with some lines about enjoying chitlins on the Champs-Elysees. The audience ate it up.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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When Benny Sharoni plays the saxophone, it's a toast to life
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | January 6, 2006
WALTHAM — "L'chaim," says Benny Sharoni, raising a pint glass one recent afternoon at Watch City Brewing Co., a few blocks from his home here. It's a simple Hebrew toast: "to life." But for the tenor saxophonist it has added resonance.
Sharoni moved to Boston from Israel in 1986 to study at the Berklee College of Music. Not long afterward, one of his teachers, saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, gave him a cassette tape of Cannonball Adderley's "Fiddler on the Roof," on which the great alto saxophonist and a quintet of all-star sidemen offered exquisite hard-bop interpretations of eight songs from the popular musical.
"He knew I was from Israel and thought maybe I'd like it," says Sharoni, who grew up on a kibbutz near the Gaza Strip. "And I think for five years I just couldn't stop listening to it. I think it's some of Cannonball's best playing, and the quintet was just unbelievable."
Topping Sharoni's list of favorite tunes from the album was "To Life," which Sharoni has now recorded for a still-in-the-works sextet album of his own. Guitarist Mike Mele, pianist Joe Barbato, and drummer Peter Moutis from that sextet will join Sharoni at Zeitgeist Gallery in Cambridge tomorrow night, along with bassist Erik Privert. (Joe McMahon plays bass on the recording, and Barry Reis is added on trumpet.)
A sampler of "To Life" and two other high-spirited tunes from the forthcoming CD reveals Sharoni's music to have more in common with Adderley's uplifting hard bop than the experimental stuff Zeitgeist is known for. "He plays with a lot of fire," says Barbato of Sharoni. "'Con brio,' as they say."
Barbato chuckles at the unexpected aptness of the music terminology and adds, "That's definitely one of his influences: Jerry Bergonzi and his group Con Brio back in the day."
Sharoni's path to making such music was highly unusual. His father and mother moved to Israel from Yemen and Chile, respectively, and Sharoni didn't first hear jazz until his mid-teens.
"Something happened, I don't know when, and I heard Sonny Rollins and Zoot Sims," he recalls. "Somebody had a record in Israel on the kibbutz. One of the guys from America had a record collection, and I listened to it. I was playing flute back then, classical flute, and I heard that thing and I said, 'OK, that's it. I'm done playing this. This is my new direction.' I think I was about 16, 17."
First, though, Sharoni had his mandatory three-year hitch in the Israeli army to get through. It was a particularly harrowing time to serve. Sharoni was with the troops sent to drive Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization from Beirut in the summer of 1982, at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, and saw a close friend killed in the fighting. He remained in Beirut during the infamous massacre of Palestinians by Lebanese Christian militiamen at the refugee camps Sabra and Shatila a couple of weeks after Arafat's departure.
"I came out of that," says Sharoni of his time in Lebanon, "and thank God I'm still alive. From then on, I had a mission."
That mission seems as much spiritual as musical, perhaps in reaction to the ugliness he saw in the war. Sharoni's conversation is heavily sprinkled with earnest talk of his interest in Kabbalah, reincarnation, and other mystical ideas.
Jazz, he contends, is a particularly mystical music.
"Music is something you can't touch," Sharoni explains. "You can hear it, but you can't touch it. And you can't explain why four guys, five guys are put together and all of a sudden there's this music that's really cooking. Everybody's doing their part, and it's very spiritual."
That's not to say Sharoni lacks a practical side. Since dropping out of Berklee after a single semester — his plan all along, he says; he knew he was too free-spirited and headstrong to have endured four years of college — Sharoni has supplemented his income from playing jazz by teaching music in Newton's public schools, performing on cruise ships, and, currently, playing jazzed-up covers of Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, and Aretha Franklin with his wedding band, East Groove.
He plays jazz at Zeitgeist a couple of times a month but also performs occasionally in New York, Florida, and overseas, including on annual visits to his parents. ("Tel Aviv is a much better jazz scene than Boston," he says. "There's so many little clubs there that play jazz.")
Sharoni also bought and rebuilt a ranch house in Waltham, completing the project about a year ago. "I've always had this dream of building a house for myself," he says. "I built this house just like I play jazz. I had no plan. I came in, I gutted everything, and I started building."
This new CD of Sharoni's is his first as a leader, but he's packed a lot of life into his 45 years. All the more reason to reprise Addlerley's special "Fiddler on the Roof" tune on it.
"It's my roots," Sharoni says. "And 'To Life' is such a strong word. 'L'chaim.' It's amazing. All the light that you can bring from the universe to you is in that word."
Benny Sharoni performs at 9:30 tomorrow night at Zeitgeist Gallery. Tickets $10. Call 617-876-6060 or visit www.zeitgeist- gallery.org.
© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Shawnn Monteiro with Clark Terry
Scullers, Doubletree Guest Suites Boston, 400 Soldiers Field Road, Boston. 617-562-4111. 8 and 10 p.m. $22, $62 with dinner. Repeats Fri.
Tonight's performance at Scullers will be a homecoming of sorts for vocalist Shawnn Monteiro (inset, top) and trumpet great Clark Terry (bottom). It was here they recorded their live album, "One Special Night," a few years ago, with Monteiro's late father, Jimmy Woode, on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums, and John Harrison on piano. Harrison will be back with them tonight and tomorrow, along with Berklee professors Yoron Israel on drums and Paul Del Nero on bass. But the focus will be on the headliners. Monteiro brings such influences as Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan to her classic jazz singing and scatting. Terry is a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and was a lifelong hero to Miles Davis, whom he preceded out of the St. Louis area. His lengthy stretch in Duke Ellington's orchestra in the 1950s overlapped with Monteiro's father's, which likely explains why he's Monteiro's godfather. Terry turned 85 last month, and has had some trouble walking in recent years. But his trumpeting remains as clear and profound as ever. Don't be surprised if he joins his goddaughter for a little singing, too. His, though, will likely be played more for laughs. That's how he earned the nickname "Mumbles," after all.
Tues 1-10 Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra The college's top jazz orchestra, directed by composition professor Greg Hopkins, crosses the Charles for three sets in Inman Square. Ryles, 212 Hampshire St., Inman Square, Cambridge. 617-876-9330. 8, 9:30 & 11 p.m. $7.