Jazz at the Library: The Great American Song Book

It was a packed house in the gallery of the L.E. Shore Memorial Library on May 22, as folks gathered to witness the second installment of the Jazz at the Library series. The theme was The Great American Song Book, and the event saw three talented musicians perform their interpretations of a number of influential songs that were written in the first half of the 20th Century.

“It takes a little bit of explanation, because this is not just a book with 20 or 30 songs,” commented event organizer Tony Bauer. “The Great American Song Book is an institution – it’s a legacy of an incredible amount of talented people who, in a short period of time, in one place, changed musical history.”

He went on to describe some of the players, touching upon the lives and works of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Richard Rogers, and a number of other legendary artists.

“It’s not that certain songs are in and certain songs are out,” he said. “Every artist, every singer, every musician, will have his or her own version of the Great American Song Book.”

As the sold-out crowd watched on, the musicians then dove into a stunning performance.

Don Buchanan, who performed at the inaugural Jazz at the Library event, took the helm at the piano. Buchanan has been part of the Grey-Bruce music scene for over 35 years, and on Friday night his command and love for the music was again apparent.

Mike Grace positioned himself at the upright bass for the evening, providing the deep tones and a number of stellar solos. Grace has an impressive resume, including a nod as Educator of the Year by the University of Michigan Musical Society after retiring from the Ann Arbor Michigan Public School system. Mike has performed with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Mel Torme, and it was easy to see on Friday night why these famous artists would want him in their bands.

It was also easy to identify him as an educator, as Grace took a few moments during the show to interject with some interesting insights into the structure of the songs they were performing.

“There are some really good reasons why we, as jazz musicians, like to play all of these standards,” he said. “They hold up.”

pazzanoAs impressive as these artists were on Friday night, it was singer Mary-Catherine Pazzano who truly stole the show. Whether she was scatting her way through a fast number or slowing things down for a powerfully belted tune, Pazzano had the audience enthralled throughout the entire show. Her performance was probably best summed up in the quiet moments that occasionally appeared between the notes, when the room sat in anticipation of her next line – completely silent and breathless.

As always, the library’s gallery served as the perfect venue for the event, with the painted sunsets and landscapes providing the backdrop, the great acoustics, and the room’s high ceiling doing its absolute best to contain Pazzano’s expansive voice.

There’s no telling what the future holds for the Jazz at the Library series, but with two impressive, sold-out shows under its belt, it has already proven to be a great addition to the area’s arts and culture scene.

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