Richmond, California (EastBayDaily) — Mainstays of the San Francisco Bay Area jazz scene since the 1980s, the members of the adventurous quintet FivePlay share a long musical history stretching back to their student days at Berklee in Boston. Co-led by husband and wife Tony Corman (guitar) and Laura Klein (piano) and also including reedman Dave Tidball, bassist Paul Smith, and drummer Alan Hall, the band has now completed work on its third album, "Five and More," to be released September 17 on the Auraline label.
The new disc is FivePlay’s most ambitious to date, with an array of special guests on hand to enhance the group’s already rich sonorities: vibraphonist Ted Wolff (another Boston friend), trombonist Frank Phipps, the Albatross Clarinet Quartet, and a four-man trombone section. “So much of the fun for us is the interaction,” says Corman, “especially with people you’ve been playing with for three decades. It can be really psychic.”
Klein composed four of the numbers on Five and More: “Enology,” named in honor of her and Tony’s son Evan, recently graduated with a degree in wine and viticulture; the jazz waltz “Glow in the Dark”; “Stella Steps Out,” a modal swinger; and “Abbott’s Lagoon,” which conjures up a magical place in rural Point Reyes, California. Corman wrote the Latin-tinged “The Girl You Look Right Past”; “What Bobby Said,” in honor of Tony’s musical hero Bobby Paunetto and featuring Wolff and the Albatross quartet; “One Better,” a swinger pitting the trombone section against Tidball’s tenor and Corman’s guitar; the bossa nova “Rosa Rugosa”; and “Making Spirits Rise,” a gently swinging jazz waltz. Tidball, who switches between soprano and tenor saxophones and clarinet and bass clarinet on the album, contributed “Glamorgan,” a ballad named for the county in Wales where he grew up.
New York City–born and raised Laura Klein earned a B.A. in music from SUNY Buffalo and spent two years “playing all over Buffalo, from elegant nightclubs to funky little chitlin circuit dives” with the ten-piece Equinox Soul Band. After that she attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where she met her future husband.
Tony Corman was born in Boston and played both piano and clarinet as a child; he took up saxophone at 16. After meeting Klein at Berklee, the two soon began jamming together (“This girl’s got a sound, a beautiful tone,” he thought at the time) and then, in 1979, living together. They married in 1984, shortly before moving to the Bay Area. Dave Tidball, Alan Hall, and Ted Wolff, all friends from Boston, eventually relocated west as well. Of the five members of FivePlay, only bassist Paul Smith is a relative newcomer to the couple’s circle of Boston buddies.
Corman’s saxophone-playing days and the group Triceratops (a sextet including Corman, Klein, Hall, and Tidball) came to an end in 2002 when a jaw problem prevented him from continuing to play woodwinds. “I changed a fundamental of my technique that fried something in my basal ganglia, which caused my jaw to permanently forget what is required to play,” is how Corman describes the situation. “I spent a little time in a very dark place, finally realized I wasn’t done, and grabbed a guitar and got busy at age 50. Though I’ll never have the hours of practice you get when you start young, I do think that 35 years of saxophoning makes me approach the guitar differently. The lines are in my head; the challenge is to get them out on this new axe.”
Since its inception in 2005, FivePlay has performed at venues throughout Northern California, including Yoshi’s, the Piedmont Piano Company, and jazz festivals in Sonoma, Danville, San Ramon, Vallejo, Brentwood, and Livermore. Their previous CDs are "FivePlay Jazz Quintet" (2010) and "Five of Hearts" (2011). “We write music to charm and enchant and engage as opposed to impress with instrumental prowess or some sort of sophisticated conceptual approach,” Corman says. “My hope always is to write a song that, the minute it’s over, you’ll want to play it again.”
FivePlay will be bringing the music from "Five and More" to three Bay Area venues in the coming months: 9/29 Bird & Beckett, San Francisco (4pm); 11/2 Musically Minded Academy, Oakland (8pm); and 2/1/14 The Jazzschool, Berkeley (8pm).
Terri Hinte Public Relations