Tag Archives: robert lewis

Two Sets = Twice the Fun at Charleston Jazz Orchestra

On Saturday night, the Charleston Jazz Orchestra presented Symphonic Swing in the first of their new ‘two-performance, one-night’ format.  Last season, the performances were all at 7 pm, with a two sets split by a 10 minute intermission.  And they were selling out weeks in advance.  A good problem, but a problem none the less.

Charleston Jazz Orchestra Symphonic Swing

The resident big band decided to try something new.  In order to have room for all the jazz fans, the CJO will now play two 90-minute shows at 7 pm and 10 pm, sans intermission.  The best part is that you can enjoy dinner without having to order the early bird special, or have dinner in between and catch both performances!

Charleston Jazz Jack McCray

photo by Alice Keeney

In a touching homage to the late Jack McCray, Charleston’s ‘Jazz Angel,’ the program notes, typically written by McCray, were left blank.  “Goodnight, Mr. Charleston,” was written simply at the bottom of the page.  McCray’s signature hat rested on the podium throughout the performance, exactly where it should be.  Special guest emcee Mark Quinn did a great job, especially given that there are BIG shoes to fill.

Symphonic Swing took classical selections and rearranged them for a fresh, funky, jazz explosion of well-known classical pieces like “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” arranged for the CJO by trumpeter & leader Charlton Singleton, and Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5 – Movement One,” arranged by alto sax player Jon Phillips.  Everyone knew the tunes, but the fresh take brought them to life.

Photo by Reese Moore

“Palladio,” a tune by Karl Jenkins, which you surely know from the ‘diamonds are forever’ commercials, was arranged by CJO alto sax player Robert Lewis, as well as “Les Toreadors” and “Habanera” from Carmen, both of which the crowd loved.  Salsa rhythms seeped in, and people were dancing in the aisles.  I kid you not, because I really wanted to be one of them.

As a child who grew up on classical ballet, NPR and annual performances by the North Carolina Symphony, this was one of the most enjoyable nights of classical music I’ve ever had.

Charlton Singleton, Leah Suarez and Mark Quinn; photo by Reese Moore

Symphonic Swing was accessible to everyone in the audience.  Surprising arrangements by the very musicians performing the songs on the Charleston Music Hall stage proved bandleader Singleton’s point: you DO know classical music, and it IS good, sometimes it just needs a more modern, jazzy spin.

Jack would have been proud.

Please support live music.  Support the Charleston Jazz Orchestra.  Our lives are so much better for the beautiful music these beautiful people make.  www.thejac.org

words: Stacy Huggins


Lee Barbour Rocks Jazz at McCrady’s

Lee Barbour

Honestly a lot of the events that I attend are to support a friend.  In this case, friend and writer Vikki Matsis.  Lee Barbour is her other half, and I’ve always wanted to hear him play.  When most of the people I talked to about the Jazz Series told me this show was high on their list too, I knew it was a good decision.  I was really thrilled with just how good a decision it was.

Barbour, on guitar, was supported by Gerald Gregory on piano, Ron Wiltrout on drums, Jake Holwegner on bass, and Robert Lewis on saxophone, who showed some serious chops as a last minute sub for Kebbi Williams.  As Lewis only had one rehearsal to get up to speed, it’s fair to say they picked a great replacement.

Playing original music and plugging his upcoming cd, due out July 20th, Barbour was a great mix of quality music with just enough story.  Let’s be honest, an over-explained song makes me think the music must be lacking.  Barbour let his songs speak for themselves, like Wolf Blitzer and Guinevere.

I was sitting across from a hip young couple, she studies art history in Baltimore and he studies Jazz Guitar with Barbour.  He even went so far as to call Barbour his mentor.  The admiration and respect in his voice was clear, which speaks volumes.

Barbour learned to play by ear as a teen, and then studied Jazz Guitar performance at the University of South Carolina.  He returned home to Charleston and was made the youngest adjunct professor at CofC within the year, teaching Jazz Guitar.  Don’t his youth fool you.  This guy has talent and a sound that is all his own.

So, as I told our Facebook and Twitter friends last night, if you weren’t at McCrady’s to hear Lee Barbour, I feel sorry for you.  Don’t despair too much, you can catch his cd release at the Pour House on Maybank Highway on July 20th.  You won’t regret it.

Visit www.thejac.org for upcoming performances in the Jazz Series Upstairs at McCrady’s and www.leebarbour.com for more info on Barbour.