Wilf's Restaurant & Bar - Friday, May 19, 2006
The Tony Pacini Trio
Tony Pacini - Piano
Ed Bennett - Bass
Tim Rap - Drums
I walked into Wilf's just in time to catch Tony's take on Lullaby of the Leaves, but since the place was absolutely packed, I had to listen from the back of the restaurant. He still sounded great. I sat with a very nice couple who were lucky enough to have wandered in on the right night. Pacini is respected among musicians and listeners alike as one of the top jazz pianists in the area (I think it goes way beyond the Northwest, though). Tony was joined by two of the best sidemen around, Ed Bennett (bass) and Tim Rap (drums). Following that trio tune, Tony launched into a series of solos - a showcase of his skills featured in his new solo piano CD release "Piano A La Carte." This particular set included Pure Imagination, Eastside Westside, Emily, and Moonlight in Vermont. Ed and Tim came back in to help out on Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me, Ed's bass solo, solid and assertive. The final creation of the set started out with Bobby Timmons' Dat Dere, Tony slamming the keys, Tim hot on the tempo, the whole thing built up till you knew it couldn't get any higher - the crowd absolutely roared while the piano faded down and the bass took over keeping everyone glued to the stage (which really isn't there, but you'd swear these guys were eight feet in the air). Tony moved from that into a classical piece and from there, built the fire up again with Clifford Brown's Daahoud. We still had two sets to go. My, Oh My.
At the break, I managed to commandeer a table about four feet from the keyboard with no obstructions to my view. To watch Tony Pacini play, even if you were deaf, would be a rare treat. Seeing his hands poised, ready to take the next solo, watching his eyes calculating where he wants to go with it, and then seeing him dive into it full-speed with no hesitation - it was just great to see a man enjoy his work so much.
The second set started with a long piano intro, barely brushing the familiar melody of Just Friends, but you caught the tune as soon as the bass and drums came aboard. This was an up-tempo arrangement that had everybody bouncing. Tim's stick work intense and masterful, Ed not losing one inch to anyone on bass, and I thought the whole trio might get picked up for speeding. On his bass solo, Ed moved all around the melody in a veritable display of virtuosity, and then Tony and Tim traded fours, driving each other (and the crowd) into a frenzy. This was one great tune.
Lil Darlin' showed up next as a soft ballad, very slow, deliberate and lush, then moved up a bit, featuring nice interplay between piano and bass, then on to a piano solo during which Tony's fingers tickled and caressed the keys with tender affection - eight people in audience fell in love, some with each other. Just to move the crowd from an "Ahhh" mood to a "Ohhhh" mood, Tony picks up the tempo with his left hand, double-timing with the right, then fading back to slow and gentle. Ed's bow was used to great effect during this passage. Those grouped around the musicians were riveted, but watching one couple, with a lovely young woman affectionately leaning on her guy's shoulder, dreamy-eyed, told the whole story. The ending had Ed and Tony playing the same chords, perfectly matched. I knew how the young woman felt. Even though many of us had died and gone on to heaven, Tony kept on playing, moving into a strong, bluesy Teach Me Tonight - once during the bass solo, which was lovely in a higher register, Tony looked over at me and gave me a sly look as if to say, "Is this fun or what?," then he pounded out a solid finish a la Gene Harris. This was beyond fun.
The second set ended with a great rendition of Georgia, moving into a hot Sweet Georgia Brown that had my leg bouncing at about 90 miles and hour. Very inventive and featuring great work by Tim Rap trading back and forth with Tony. The third set was every bit as fine as the first two and featured some nice solo work by Mr. Pacini on Skylark and If I Loved You. This was a night to remember.
Wilf's employees were marvelous in serving the crowd and being unobtrusive at the same time. This is a great, smoke-free venue for cool jazz and enjoying an evening out - great food, incredible music.