Saturday, October 9, 1999
Group makes jazz come alive
by Mary Murfin Bayley, Seattle Times dance critic
Spectrum Dance Theater's full-length evening of jazz dance, performed in collaboration with singer Greta Matassa, offered several levels of pleasure when it premiered Thursday at the Moore.
There was Matassa herself, whose voice can ping and pong along the highest riffs and effortlessly belt down to the darkest whiskey tones. She paid tribute to 14 legendary singers from Billie Holiday to Frank Sinatra, suggesting each singer's spirit and style while making each song unmistakably her own.
Then there were the 10 Spectrum dancers. This diverse group delivers emphatic and essentially warm-hearted jazz dance with clarity and showmanship. They performed pieces by seven local choreographers, and although the dances were different in style and mood, from highly dramatic to purely rhythmic, together they created the feel of a unified work, with dancers casually sitting at cafe tables by the stage.
In Mel Torme's "Born to Be Blue," choreographer Bruce Wells pulled out all the dramatic stops and Vincent Cuny and Lisa Kipp responded with steam-heat dancing. Cuny, recently a soloist at Pacific Northwest Ballet, reveals an easy feel for jazz and the sharp individuality called for in this art form.
Wade Madsen's choreography for Anita O'Day's "Sweet Georgia Brown" seemed to turn the syncopated rhythms of the arrangement into visible form.
Kabby Mitchell's "Open the Door" used staggering waiters and jiggling chairs to comic effect. Other standouts were Brandon McCleskey in Cheryl Johnson's "Rhythmning," Wayne Bascomb's intricately choreographed "Doodling," Guy Caridi's tribute to Fred Astaire, and Dale Merrill's "All the Things You Are," a tribute to Tony Bennett.
The music was strikingly arranged by pianist Craig Hoyer for Matassa and the five-piece band, which included Bert Wilson on the saxophone, Tom Marriott on horns, Dan O'Brien on bass, Mark Ivester on drums.
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