Savannah Music Festival Review: Joe Alterman Trio

Traditional acoustic jazz inventively performed never gets old, as the Joe Alterman Trio reminded a near-capacity audience during a lunchtime concert at the Morris Center April 7, the next-to-last day of the 2017 Savannah Music Festival.

Pianist Alterman and his surefooted accompanists, bassist Kevin Smith and drummer Justin Chesarek, hewed mostly to soulful jazz-blues grooves in sprightly renditions of standards like “Blue Moon” and in fresh instrumental re-conceptions of such pop hits as “Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “You Are My Sunshine.”

Alterman made the imposing Steinway grand piano do his bidding with harmonically complex and introspective ballad interludes and, more often, with rapid-fire, cascading solos that showed an affinity for those tinkly top piano octaves that many of us jazz fans dearly love. Smith and Chesarek stepped out for virtuosic solos of their own on a couple numbers as well.

Alterman, a rising young star who has drawn accolades from such jazz legends as Ramsey Lewis and Les McCann, brought hints of rock and gospel piano styles into “Coming Home to You,” a song the Atlanta native wrote to celebrate his recent move back to his hometown after 10 years of living in New York.

Here's hoping that his return to Georgia will make it easier for Alterman and friends to perform in Savannah more often.

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