Bess Celebrates Suite William

Bess Bonnier celebrated the release of her "Suite William" CD with a performance at the Kerrytown Concert House on August 21. Her CD includes Bonnier's original music in honor of William Shakespeare, as reviewed in our last newsletter. She brought her quintet plus singers Judie Cochill and Deanna Relyea to Kerrytown for two rousing performances in front of enthusiastic audiences.

The selections from her suite were framed by standards, like "Mr. Sandman" and "Zec," and some originals, like Paul Keller's "Rumpled Tux." If these were warm-up numbers they were superfluous for the quintet, which was smoking from the first note of the second set. Bassist Paul Keller and drummer Pete Siers are a wonderful complement to Bonnier's piano playing and the temper of her music is also theirs. Paul Finkbeiner is a more recent addition to the Bonnier group and he was a delight on both trumpet and flugelhorn. Cary Kocher played his vibes with great drive and enthusiasm and he set the mood for the night with the lead off solos on the first two numbers. On "Orex," an interesting Shorty Rogers number, Bonnier followed the hot vibes with the kind of laid-back and elegant solo that is her trademark. 

The selections from the Shakespeare suite were the high point of the evening. Judie Cochill sang "It Was a Lover And His Lass" and "Spring." Deanna Relyea made her debut as a jazz singer on "Winter." The contrasting approaches of the two singers added new dimensions to the suite. On "Macbeth" Cochill, Relyea, and Bonnier donned witches' hats and gave us the dramatic highlight of the evening as their shrieks were followed by Finkbeiner's powerful brass. 

The choice ballad from "Suite William" is the "18th Sonnet" (Shall I Compare Thee to A Summer's Day), which Paul Finkbeiner sang in a way that must have had most listeners thinking of Chet Baker (or maybe Ann Arbor's own Paul Vornhagen). On this piece Bonnier also delighted her audience with some beautiful piano playing. With "Suite William" Bess Bonnier has created a piece of music that expresses her gifts as a pianist and composer better than anything I have ever heard her do. It deserves a wide hearing, so why not take it to Stratford?