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Published on October 28th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann


Review: The Charleston Jazz Orchestra Explore Bop and More

Charleston Jazz Orchestra: World of Bebop
Charleston Music Hall
Oct. 26

Nearing the end of a vibrant fifth season at the Charleston Music Hall, the Charleston Jazz Orchestra (CJO) and Jazz Artists of Charleston (JAC) presented a dynamic and rousing program of bebop era works at the venue on Sat. Oct. 26 with two full sets of in-house arrangements. Trumpeter and bandleader Charlton Singleton led the way.

With a swingin’ vibe reminiscent of last winter’s Coltrane: The Music of John Coltrane program, World of Bebop embraced and emphasized the melodic sides of popular and slightly obscure pieces by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Clifford Brown, Slide Hampton, Oscar Pettiford, Charlie Christian, and others.

In front of a light but cheerful crowd, Singleton and the band quickly got into a cool groove for their second set of the night (the 10 p.m. show after the 7 p.m. show), delivering a tight renditions of Dizzy’s “Groovin’ High” (arranged by reed player Mark Sterbank) and Slide Hampton’s “Gullah Suite Part III: JB,” a Dizzy tribute piece commissioned by the Charleston Jazz Initiative a few years ago.


Singleton’s upbeat arrangement of Ray Noble’s “Cherokee” featured JAC co-director Leah Suárez on lead vocals (and scat singin’) and some terrific solos by bassist Jeremy Wolf, pianist Gerald Gregory, and sax player Robert Lewis. Suárez sang beautifully and delicately on JAC woodwind player David Heywood’s adaptation of Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose.”

One of the early highlights of the show came with the soft-paced, emotive, brassy version of “I Remember Clifford,” veteran bop sax player Benny Golson’s piece written in tribute of late trumpeter Clifford Brown. Singleton’s gentle-but-intense solo seemed to draw from the warm tone and feel of Brown’s finest recordings.

Singleton scattered various song introductions and brief asides and stories about the composers, recordings, and sidemen throughout the set.

“I Remember Clifford” may have been the strongest, most emotional ballad of the set, but the boozy, call-and-response number “Gimme That Wine” by Jon Hendricks (and arranged by Singleton) was certainly the most amusing and upbeat number. Singleton belted out, “Gimme that wine!” and the band and audience followed with “Unhand that bottle!” It made one thirsty.

Other highlights included CJO guitarist Tyler Ross’s elegant arrangement of “Solo Flight” (Charlie Christian/Jimmy Mundy/Benny Goodman), Wolf’s peppery, bouncy arrangement of Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism” and a brief flurry of Monk’s classic “Straight No Chaser,” a stage-front baritone sax solo by John Cobb, and a solid take on Charlie Parker’s “BiIlie’s Bounce.”

The CJO’s next big show is their popular annual Holiday Swing program set for Nov. 23 at the Charleston Music Hall. The set will feature their annual rendition of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s Nutcracker Suite, plus a few holiday-themed surprises. It’s a “one performance only” event scheduled for 7 p.m. Any music fan would surely get a kick out of the CJO’s big-band sound, smart arrangements, and bold delivery.

Visit and for more.

Top photo by Tessa Blake, courtesy of the Jazz Artists of Charleston. 

The CJO at the Charleston Music Hall (photo by Tessa Blake, courtesy of the JAC)

The CJO at the Charleston Music Hall (photo by Tessa Blake, courtesy of the JAC)



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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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