On Sunday, December 8, The Tennessee Jazz & Blues Society presented a special holiday concert featuring The Jody Nardone Trio. The trio performed jazz arrangements of Christmas classics along with material from their new CD. Ron Wynn has a review of the performance:

Jody Nardone brings holiday cheer
By Ron Wynn

   Pianist, vocalist and bandleader Jody Nardone is among the city’s most versatile and impressive musicians, even though his profile’s no doubt higher within the jazz community than outside it. Nardone and his trio showed Sunday at the Nashville Jazz Workshop’s Cave that they merit wider attention with a combination CD release celebration and holiday concert that was an artistic triumph and entertainment highlight.

   First and foremost, Nardone enjoys performing, and is just as interested in audience rapport as in demonstrating his quite formidable keyboard prowess.  Besides introducing almost all the titles of his songs (something too many jazz musicians still don’t or won’t do), he interspersed throughout his introductions several amusing or informative comments and stories about the compositions and/or his influences.

   One of those is Vince Guaraldi, whom he said frequently gets overlooked and treated with disdain by purists because his music enjoyed widespread popularity thanks to its use on the “Peanuts” TV specials. “Some people act as if Vince’s music wasn’t that important, but he’s one of the first jazz people I ever listened to, and my son has grown up hearing his music and really loves it,” Nardone said.

   Nardone’s a fine vocalist and energetic, first-rate player. His melodic forays were consistently tasteful, with frequently surprising embellishments and transitions, while his solos were challenging and explosive.

   Even on such familiar tunes as “Winter Wonderland” or “What Child Is This” (one of two that were homages to Guaraldi), he played with flair and vigor while giving ample time to band mates bassist Jerry Navarro and drummer Nioshi Jackson.

   Jackson capably substituted for trio regular Derek Phillips and showed that, despite his current preference for the executive rather than drum chair, he hasn’t lost any  rhythmic dexterity or percussive zeal.

   Navarro got several spotlight moments, and constantly  displayed tremendous ability. He easily executed difficult lines and phrases with speed and agility. He excelled whether concentrating on rhythm section duties or switching to a singular role.

   Likewise, while he didn’t get quite as many individual moments as Navarro, when Jackson did get the opportunity, he delivered thoughtful, animated and imaginative solos. His playing was never just an array of beats, but a compelling rhythmic contribution to the trio’s overall presentation.

   Saxophonist Rahsaan Barber was a welcome special guest on a couple of songs, most notably the covers of Coldplay’s “Fix You” and Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” His restrained, yet soulful tenor provided a valuable additional instrumental color to the trio’s sound, with Nardone’s rich chords and phrases augmented by Barber’s presence.

   Nardone’s vocals were breezy and engaging, making them an ideal accompaniment to his expressive piano flurries. The trio’s treatments of pop material during both their live performance and also their new CD “Lights Will Guide You Home” expand, probe and tweak these tunes without distorting them.

   They give every number a flavor that’s far from the diluted, meek approach usually deemed “smooth” jazz. Not even the most hardened anti-pop stalwart could accuse the Nardone trio or Barber of not playing with fire,  or watering anything down.

   Jody Nardone and his trio’s two outstanding sets not only brought holiday cheer to the audience, the performance fully illuminated the trio’s vast skills. Hopefully, they will garner more recognition and attention within the general music world in 2014, because the jazz sphere certainly knows and admires their excellence.