While not technically a jazz musician per se, singer/songwriter J.D. Souther showed the audience at the richly acoustic Rose Theater that he has a jazzer’s heart. Growing up in Texas and imbibing the sounds of Big Band Swing and bebop, Souther demonstrates (through his tunes and delivery) two of the most important aspects of jazz, namely having one’s own sound and having a story to tell.
Souther is overly qualified on both, as during most of the 100 minute set his voice was Lester Young light and legato on flowing pieces such as “I’ll Be There At Closing Time” and the vulnerable “The Sad Café.” His pieces such as “Kite Woman,” and “The Last In Love” along with the mix of loneliness and swagger on “New Kid In Town” defined the classic “California Sound” of the 70s that only a man like the Texan Souther could accomplish.
Between songs of the billed “Intimate Evening,” Souther told the background stories behind each of the tunes, joking that “digression is my specialty” before mixing songs on guitar such as the romantic “Dance Real Slow,” producing a cozy swing read of Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and even producing an a cappella improv of “If I Only Had A Brain.” He then sat at the piano and caressed the ivories like a lounge lizard with the wistful “Talking to the Moon” and “I’ll Take Care of You, ” with his deep gospel roots on display during the contemplative “Jesus in ¾ Time.”
Like all musical pilgrims, Souther showed his desire to add new aspects of his artistry, and for this tour he has added Norwegian Ida Jenshus, who brought her voice, guitar and harmonica to add extra harmonies to a handful of songs. When they joined vocals on “Faithless Love,” the result was a velvet texture as rich as Duke Ellington’s sax section. By the time he closed the set with “You’re Only Lonely,” Souther convinced everyone in attendance that he can make jazz a verb and attitude that works even with the California Mellow genre that he helped create, yet also make one wonder why his songbook hasn’t been approached by today’s jazz generation, as the themes and melodies beg for it.
Upcoming shows at the Canyon Club, Saban, Libbey and Rose include Robert Cray 07/28, John Waite 07/29, Albert Lee 08/18, Stephen Stills & Judy Collins 09/01, Larry Carlton 09/03, Al Di Meola 09/15,Dave Mason 09/23, The Drifters 10/15 and Johnny Rivers 10/18