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Mike Melvoin at the LAX Westin

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Mike Melvoin plays so beautifully! I had a great time hangin with him, Tony Dumas and Ralph Penland at the gig that I MC at the Westin. I got to spend some nice time hangin’ with these cats before and after the show. Mike is a super guy and plays some wonderfully intriguing melodies. We talked about jazz music, jazz radio and one of my old cohorts, “The King of Jazz Radio”, Mr. Chuck Niles. Chuck had a local television show on Channel 36 here in Los Angeles and that is where I first saw Mike Melvoin perform. You could tell that he and Chuck had been good buddies for a long time.

Mike’s playing was just as superb as on the show with Chuck. He came up playing piano in the television industry for various television shows but, has always remained a great jazz pianist. Tonight he employs some of the more outstanding talents that this town has to offer. Ralph Penland, leader of his own group, the Penland Polygon Quintet, has such supple qualities to his playing. He is right there in a dynamic way making confident statements without overpowering the beauty of the trio. A quality the Mike appreciates very much.

On bass is Mr. Tony Dumas who has played with everyone from Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson, Billy Childs, Cedar Walton, George Cables, Art Pepper and more. Before the show, Tony was warming up and playing a bass line that I was quite familiar with. It was from one of my favorite tunes by Joe Henderson called, “Y Todavia la Quiero” from an album called “Relaxin’ in Camarillo”. I was so excited because this particular tune was one I played quite often on my overnight program at KKJZ. The bass line is so strong and is such a powerful signature for that tune; I did not even realize that Tony was the bass player on that date. It was like finding a long lost cousin!

Tony told me he got interested in jazz by going to the dentist. His dentist always played the “Miles Smiles” album and Tony was always intrigued because he did not like it at first but, eventually opened his ears and started loving the music. Good thing, because certainly brings a solid foundation to the quality of sound, especially in this trio setting.

These players play some lush melodies that are so beautiful on some standards and a few Mike Melvoin compositions as well. Creating a mood that emanates soft and tender love and happiness. There is so much space, warmth and gentleness in the music and the solos are taken with such grace. The resolution is always wonderfully content.

I had a conversation with Mike’s lovely wife Sandy. She said that she has been enjoying jazz music for quite some time but, the last 28 years have been especially sweet! It is so great to be around great music and always have it resonate so close to home. Great love is such an inspiration for lovely music. If you ask me, I think this has been a key ingredient to Mike’s secret for success! A great husband, a great grandfather, a great musician and a great soul, Mike Melvoin!

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LeRoy Downs

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