Jazz Swings into "The Other Side"

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by Mark Ziobro

Walking past the sidewalk that runs in front of “The Other Side” next to Café Domenico, one might have mistaken the magnificent jazz emanating from the building as just another CD playing from the café. However, on Sunday, May 22nd,the sounds were not from a record, but live- “The Other Side” transformed into a jazz club from the hours of 2:30-5 p.m., replete with a jazz quartet, wine by the glass, and an intimate performance that packed the house, all for $15.

The latest in their “Swing City Jazz” series, Sunday’s event was to honor Jazz drummer Jimmy Wormworth, a Utica-born drummer who “went to the big city and came back a star,” said the saxophonist for the quartet, Charles Davis.

Orin and Kim Domenico, owners of “The Other Side,” a not-for-profit agency dedicated to bringing art and culture to the City of Utica, gave a warm welcome to the Wormworth and the Jazz Quartet. “I read the NY Times every Friday,” Orin said, “and have a ritual where I fantasize about what [jazz] shows I would go see if I were in New York. But this weekend I didn’t have to do that because we’re going to outdo them all.”

John Piazza, Musical Director and host for the event, also had nothing but praise for the group, stating, “Wormworth came from Utica and is one of the greatest drummers in the world.”

Tenor Saxophonist Charles Davis started the show, with the rest of the band coming in, led by the expert drumming of Wormworth. Davis, 70 years old, was one of the most commanding aspects of the show as he seemed to come in at just the right time, adding a layer of spirited notes on the more upbeat pieces, and sweetly doleful melodies on some of their slower ones. Davis is a renowned Saxophonist, and has played with Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Johnny Griffin, Achie Shepp, and many more. During one break in the performance, Davis also shared that his very first professional gig involved him playing with Billie Holliday, which was, as Davis himself stated, “glorious.”

Tardo Hammer, the pianist, nicknamed “The Nailer,” added much to the performance in the way of skill and melody. His jazz playing was reminiscent of ever a lonely jazz club, and was so good, in fact, that Café Domenico owner Orin Domenico stated that “when I heard him play I knew we needed a real piano, and had to rent one to replace the one we had.”

Hammer has been a major figure in the New York City jazz scene for the past 25 years, and has been a professional since the age of 16.

Guiding the band along and, on when the occasion called for it showing off himself, was Lee Hudson, bass player for the band, who, as Davis stated, “let’s his fingers do the walking” up and down the impressive neck of his double bass. Like Hammer, Hudson is a sought after musician in the NYC jazz scene, who has worked with musicians Catherine Russell, Dave Glass, Dan Block, as well as this event’s saxophonist Charles Davis.

Of course,  Sunday afternoon’s concert was to honor Jimmy Wormworth, and he did not disappoint. Situated behind the drums, he laid down subtle beats with the wire brush during quiet moments, and all-out, control-the-room drum solos when called for, much to the delight of both the band who cheered him on and the room who awed in his performance.

Part of the amazement of his performance was the fact that Wormworth is from Utica. Born in 1937, Wormworth travelled in Europe, playing with his own jazz quartet, and then came to New York City and began touring the United States. In the late 50’s he worked with Lou Donaldson, Phineaus Newborn, Mal Waldron, Sahib Shihab, saxophonist Charles Davis, Lonnie Hillyer, and many, many more. Considering his extensive career, it is no surprise that Jazz Trumpeter John Marshall once called Wormworth “a living part of jazz history.”

To end the performance Dolores Mancuso, 89, who has been singing professionally since the late 1930’s  and was the first honoree at the ‘Talkin ‘Bout Jazz’ series, was invited to the stage by Charles Davis to sing along with the band for a crowd-pleasing closing number.

Sunday’s “Talking ‘bout Jazz” performance, which attracted 85 plus people to the small venue at “The Other Side” also serves to show the breadth of culture and entertainment that Utica has to offer. “The Other Side” continuously provides music, dance, as well as educational lectures that enrich our city, and provide just as much value as you will find in bigger cities such as Syracuse, Buffalo, and New York City.

“We were also very pleased with the turnout on Sunday,” Orin said. “Our twin goals with the ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout Jazz: Swing City Series’ are to reinvigorate the once great Utica jazz scene and to educate people to the City’s fabulous jazz legacy by honoring the jazz great from the area

Also, don’t forget to check out the next Swing City Jazz series event on June 19th (Father’s Day!) from 2:30-4 p.m., paying tribute to jazz giant trumpeter and bandleader Jack Palmer. The guest musician will be trumpeter Joe Magnarelli. To make reservations, call 735.4825 or e-mail Kim at kodomenico@verizon.net

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