ARTS, WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 1988, Toronto, Canada
Jazz pianist crafts melodies with the greatest of care By Mark Miller
Larry Vuckovich, the latest solo pianist into Toronto"s Cafe des Copains, likes fine melodies. He chooses them carefully - tunes from the standard repertoire such as Invitation and It Might As Well Be Spring were part of one recent, and pleasant, mid-evening set there - and he keeps them close at hand as he makes his way through his solos. Melodic excellence does not bear trifling, and Vuckovich maintains this sense of purity in his improvisational line and form. It gives his music a quality to be admired as if it were on display.
Vuckovich is a well-traveled musician, born in the late thirties in Yugoslavia and based, successively, in San Francisco, Munich, Frisco again and now rural New Jersey. For all of that - because of it, possibly - he has a remarkably settled approach to jazz.
There is weight, shading, momentum, spontaneity and all the other variables of jazz in his playing, but all are deliberately balanced in a way that gives a certain formality to this most informal of music.
The Vuckovich touch is gentle, but firm. Nothing gets away from him; each shortish solo is well constructed, judiciously edited and neatly dovetailed. Even the smallest of notes and fastest of phrases are given clear shape. His walking-bass lines move stealthily on tiptoes, nimble yet unobtrusive, and the lift they give his improvisations is felt as much as heard.
Vuckovich continues through Saturday night. He will be followed by another pianist making his cafe" debut.
TWO and a half weeks have passed since the Bermuda Onion re-established an upscale jazz market in Toronto with, in turn, the Phil Woods Quintet, Elvin Jones" Jazz Machine and this week (through Saturday), the tenor saxophonist Benny Golson. Two or three points about the venture are already clear. First of all, the joint jumps. Only the bottom line will tell it it"s a success, but judging by the size and enthusiasm of the crowds so far, it"s definitely a hit.
The small house for the Yugoslavian pianist Larry Vuckovich and the Toronto bassist Dave Young over at the Cafe des Copains later Tuesday night might further signal the Bermuda Onion"s new competitive edge. Not necessarily so, advises cafe management: this is the off-season. Things are always quiet at this time of year.
Vuckovich is more interesting than a lot of the cafe"s high season players, a musician who sits apart from the rest by virtue - and a virtue it is - of his taste for both the exotic and the exquisite.
The former is evident in his repertoire: his own Mostar Bridge, for example, with its Balkan melodic line, or Juan Tizol's Caravan, or the Latin American pieces that were all part of Tuesday's late set. Vuckovich invariably put these tunes, and the other pop and jazz pieces that rounded off the night, in the most flattering of possible lights, giving each as much a setting as an interpretation. He's precise, he's a gentle heart, and he's clearly captivated by beauty. There are certainly worse ways of going through life.
Jazz Film Series - Washington D.C.
SEPTEMBER 9 - OCTOBER 3, 1997
CLUB DATE jazz series has a permanent home, and that home has just about the most prestigious address imaginable in the United States! The entire jazz on video collection now resides in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C..
The Mary Pickford Theater At The Library Of Congress, Third Floor
James Madison Building, Washington. D.C.
All Programs Are Free Although Seating Is Limited. No Reservations Will Be Taken. Admission Is
First-Come, First Served. Programs Start At 7 P.M. Door Open At 6:30 P.M.
Friday, October 3: "JAZZ SET WEST" with JAMES NEWTON (1994);
"CLUB DATE" With Ray Anderson (1991); And LARRY VUCKOVICH (1991)
Composer-flutist James Newton studied with Buddy Collette in Los Angeles in the 1970s and has since worked to expand the vocabulary and technique for the flute in modern jazz. He has performed and recorded with Anthony Davis, Frank Wess, David Murray, Red Callender, Arthur Blythe and the Asian Anderson has been described by the New York Times as "an excellent performer who carries the more rought-and-tumble sounds of Dixieland Brass into experimental territory." His quartet includes the seldom seen Japanese pianist Fumio Itabashi. San Francisco pianist Larry Vuckovich blends the Balkan folk music of his native Yugoslavia with blues, bop and jazz. He co-leads a quintet with enigmatic trumpeter Tom Harrell that features Latin-Jazz percussionist Pete Escovedo.
TONIGHT'S PROGRAM WILL BE INTORDUCED BY SUZAN JENKINS. MS. JENKIINS IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF AMERICA'S JAZZ HERITAGE PROGRAM AT THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION.