Late Saturday Night with the Damon Rentie Quintet at Seabird Jazz Lounge

  • 07/18/2012
  • Terelle Jerricks

By Melina Paris, Arts, Culture and Entertainment Writer

All you need for a good night are a good car, good friends, good food, drinks and good music. This past Saturday all of the above finally came together but it took a little while.

I intended on checking out a show in Century City but upon our arrival at the venue — early no less — my friends and I were faced with a four-block long line of people waiting to get inside. A line that kept getting longer by the minute.

To save the evening, we trekked back to Long Beach for a promising live jazz show at the Seabird Jazz Lounge. After driving across three freeways to get back to Long Beach, it was nice to walk into a club hearing what I was expecting to hear: Cool jazz on a summer evening.  With the Damon Rentie Quintet performing, the effect on the senses was soothing.

The quintet was in mid-set when we arrived, laying down some tight rhythms, holding the attention of the entire head-bobbing audience. Refreshingly, the band visibly enjoys watching each other play. There is no going through the motions here. They were having as much fun as the audience well into the third set.

Rentie’s quintet plays many standard smooth jazz and straight ahead numbers. It was a great pleasure to hear them play Eddie Harris’ notable “Freedom Jazz Dance,” David Sanborn’s unforgettable “Maputo” and Herbie Hancock’s expansive “Butterfly.”
Showcasing their own cuts fluently throughout the sets kept the evening flowing with good energy and the audience was engaged. Rentie took his listeners on a mellow journey with the title song of his upcoming CD, Second Chance. It was an easy flowing tune that kept the ambiance moving fluidly through the room.

But as if that wasn’t enough,  we were given the treat of a surprise guest: alto saxophonist Azar Lawrence, who has sat in with the band on more than a few occasions. His playing was invigorating, infusing a straight ahead accentuation into the numbers being played by Rentie’s quintet. This special part of the evening was well  received by attendees.

Not to be outdone, the consummate performer Rentie enlivened the crowd when he walked  amidst the tables of attendees playing his saxaphone. By appearances he’s been doing this joyfully for a long time. He is an original, continuous member of Atlantic Star and has toured with many other exceptional musicians, such as the late Tina Marie (May she rest in peace). He describes what the band does as as a mix of R&B and pop to create urban jazz.  It is that particular mixture, which to his thinking, has spawned the popularity of this music.

Rentie’s band is a solid group of musicians that’s been together for four years and still going strong. Individually each one of these guys is a passionate player, together they are tight and in rhythm they are strong. Keyboardist, Jerome Academia is a noticeable force.  He’s bent towards straight ahead jazz, which I exceedingly appreciate, but he can also bring the velvet-ness of smooth jazz that is in the mainstream today. As a lover of straight ahead jazz without an abundance of opportunities to hear it live when I do, it feels like I’m coming home again.

Go experience Damon Rentie’s urban jazz sound at the Seabird Jazz Lounge. You can catch them on every third Saturday or second Friday of the month.
Venue: The Seabird Lounge
Location: 720 E. Broadway, Long Beach

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