Kip Sophos Jazz Jam "Pete's Saloon March 31, 2009"

Kip Sophos Jazz Jam
"Pete's Saloon March 31, 2009 9:30 PM"

Performance review by Roger-Z (04/02/09)
Appeared in More Sugar, May 2009, P. 25A

Step aside, Jaco. There's a new bass player in town and his name is Kip Sophos. Move quickly because this seemingly mild mannered martial arts instructor takes no guff. If you were alive, you could challenge him to a cutting session at his Tuesday night jazz jam at Pete's Saloon in Elmsford, New York. But arm yourself well. Sophos plays a monstrous six-string instrument he built himself. I advise against showing up with that beat-up, old four-string jazz bass that you ripped the frets out of. Bring your "A" game.

But seriously folks. The jazz doesn't flow harder and faster, or for that matter, slower and softer, anywhere else in town. Each Tuesday, Kip Sophos and vocalist Nicole Pasternak ( front a revolving quartet that will kick your ass. This particular week, ex-Spyro Gyra and all around heavy hitter Joel Rosenblatt ( joined the fray on drums along with Gil Parris mainstay Matt King ( on keyboards.

Though Ms. Pasternak comes off soft spoken and sweet, don't confuse this music with your mother's wedding band. She could hold her own scatting with Ella Fitzgerald. And she proved that on the opening tune, "Sunny." This performance set the template for the next four songs. Everyone gets a solo. Sophos sounds more like Charlie Parker than a bassist as he rips the notes from his steroid enlarged instrument. Joel Rosenblatt plays with that Billy Cobham, balls to the wall, edge. And don't be fooled by Matt King's smiling face, shining head, and little red keyboard. This wolf who can tickle those keys until they scream.

I learned many things that night. I never knew that "Night in Tunisia" had words; that "In a Sentimental Mood" could be played as a bossa instead of a ballad; and that Henry Mancini came from Pasternak's husband's home town. I do know that the crowd erupted when Pasternak and Sophos faced off in bass/scat solo breakdown in the middle of Mancini's "Days of Wine and Roses." And when Pasternak left the stage, the boys got nice and heavy with Don Grolnick's "Nothing Personal."

As Sophos explained to me, this jam is meant for professionals and those striving to be professionals. He rotates the drum and keyboard chair so he gets a well earned chance to hang with his many friends. Not a bad place to impress the house players that you can do their sub work.

Nicole Pasternak acts as MC and keeps the music flowing. I've never before witnessed such great playing at an open session. Not one weak link. Tunes called included Miles Davis' "All Blues," Jobim's "One Note Samba," Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train," and Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia." Jammers included Blues Brother singer Tommy McDonnell, vocalist Chava Mirel, guitarist Gil Parris, guitarist Jim Hickey, guitarist Ed Train, saxophonist Fred Vigdor, drummer Matt Keeler, drummer Terry Silverlight, drummer Joe Piteo, drummer VJ, bassist, Al Payson, bassist Steve DePra, and many, many others. My two favorite jam moments: Pasternak exchanging licks with an alto sax player and Mirel's joyous rendition of "One Note Samba."

Pete, namesake of Pete's Saloon, just happens to play bass and really gets behind this jam. You can spot him adjusting the speakers and riding the PA mic controls. He and Sophos had long talked about creating this Tuesday night affair. And out of the blue one night, Sophos got the call to go ahead.

I've noticed this past year, as the economy sinks, fewer and fewer clubs offer individual bands or groups on a week night. Either they cut the music out all together or they go to the jam format -- rock, jazz, blues, funk, acoustic, etc. The open mike makes sense. It works just like Karaoke. People come because they get to perform.

But make no mistake about Tuesday night at Pete's. You normally would have to pay mucho dinero to see any one of these top professionals on a weekend gig. This night of music could end up being the deal of the century.

2009 Roger-Z