Jazzing Through the SnowDec 30, 2020 02:58PM ● By Brendan Zimmerman
Though there are no live concerts to be found this holiday season, local jazz group Slightly Tooned managed to bring a little virtual Christmas cheer to an otherwise bleak December.
In an effort to raise money for the Louis Armstrong Emergency Fund for Jazz Musicians, the ensemble held a virtual concert through Facebook Live where viewers could donate money through PayPal or Venmo during the performance.
Slightly Tooned is led by Nick Beltramini, who plays the saxophone. Other members are Ian Banno on bass, Warren Pettey, who plays the piano, and Jack Shurtleff on the drums. Playing from a garage decked out with Christmas decorations, the setting was warm and filled with music instruments mic’d and ready.
Though there were a few technical issues at first, the band was soon in full swing with a smooth rendition of “Let it Snow, Let It Snow.” The sound came through well for a virtual concert, with every instrument cutting through in the mix without sounding muddy.
For the entirety of their set, the band covered a series of classic Christmas songs, ranging from “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” And of course, no Christmas jazz concert would be complete without a cover of the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s magnificent work from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Thankfully, Slightly Tooned delivered a great rendition of “O Tannenbaum” early in their set.
But the magic of a jazz concert doesn’t just come from the first few bars of that recognizable melody setting the stage – it comes from the jam sessions that eventually build off of it. And Slightly Tooned did an excellent job with their improv. Once the progression was set for a song, the band would take off into a series of skillful solos. Each band member got a chance to solo in most of the songs, trading off the spotlight methodically and giving each other an equal amount of time to riff. Ultimately, the solos were fun, inventive, and energetic in each song.
There were some particularly interesting moments throughout the set, including a groovy rendition of “Santa Baby” that saw Beltramini switch over to the flute halfway through for a jazzy solo. The band was tight and locked in for the entirety of the performance as the rhythm section, comprised of Shurtleff and Banno, kept the jam sessions moving steady without fail.
For an isolated winter season capping off a year without any local concerts, it was nice to finally experience live music again – even if it was just from the comfort of our couches. And just in time for Christmas, Slightly Tooned put on a great show for a great cause.