Monday, March 7, 2011

The Hagen/Steele Trio: Jazz Under The Desert Sun At Beautiful Le Paon Restaurant

This past Saturday afternoon March 5, my wife and I had the delightful experience of enjoying lunch at the French Restaurant, Le Paon.  This gem of a restaurant is located above the most beautiful street in the Desert, El Paseo in Palm Desert, California. The purpose of our visit, in addition to lunch was to hear the new trio put together by Marty Steele that features the wonderful vocal sounds of Laura Hagen and the always great bass sounds from Bill Siata. I heard Laura sing a song or two at a couple of jazz events I had attended here in the desert, and I was looking forward to hearing more.  The setting at Le Paon is as close to perfect as it can get.  Sunny, temperatures in the low 80's, dining outside under a crystal clear blue sky while listening to some really great jazz songs directly out of the "Great American Songbook".

Laura's performance of a lot of my favorite songs, including several made famous by the great Peggy Lee, were just outstanding.  She had the ability to sing not only up-tempo tunes but also soft love songs. we all love. My own regret was that it took me too long to get to hear Laura perform her full show.  In addition to Laura's great voice, the arrangements played were some of the best I have heard in a long, long time. I later found out that Marty had written all the arrangements for the group.

But there were others surprises that afternoon.  First, I heard Marty Steele play with many of the Jazz groups I follow out here, but I never really got the chance to hear Marty play some great solos with some slow standards.  In particular, Marty did a solo on the old chestnut, Laura, that was just wonderful. I also got to hear Marty do what Mel Torme was renowned for, scatting.  Marty referred to this as "mindless scatting" but it was far from mindless, it was right on target. I had been told by all of the musicians I respect out here that Marty is a really outstanding talent. I agreed after hearing him play several times but I really got to hear and study him close up on Saturday and he really is one of the best I have heard anywhere. The third member of the trio was the always great bassist, Bill Saitta.  I try to get to wherever Bill is playing because it is rare today that you can get to see any one of his talent playing the Stand Up Bass.  I love the way Bill can play standards and especially like listening to his intelligent jazz improvising lines.  He is just one of the great bass players I have heard.
The last surprise was hearing my favorite flutist here in the desert, direct from Vancouver Canada, Tom Keenlyside.  Tom has surprised us at many of the jazz concerts we have attended and it appears he has become part of the desert jazz family. He played a few numbers with the band, and did a remarkable solo on the evergreen gem, "Stella by Starlight".

The Steel/Hagen Trio performs at Le Paon Restaurant every Saturday afternoon from Noon to 3:00 PM. If and when you find yourself on El Paseo on Saturday, this is the place to be.  The restaurant is beautiful, the food is great, the weather is always good and the sounds from Laura, Marty and Bill make it the most perfect afternoon lunch you will ever have.

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