JAMS starts with a yallop

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At around 6 on an utterly cloudless and warm evening last Friday, the amplifiers outside the bandstand in Rufus King Park burst into recorded music, summoning people to the chairs set up on the lawn for the first concert of the fifth annual Jamaica Arts and Music Summer Festival.

The writer, who had attended past festivals, had forgotten that the program usually starts late, and as she sat there she began to wonder if they really meant the concert would take place under the stars as advertised in the flyer - the sun still had a good two hours before it set. But just as she was getting a bit antsy the band took their places and were announced. They went by the somewhat unfortunate moniker of the Yalloppin' Hounds, and the writer hoped they didn't sound like a pack of them.

They didn't. They were in fact one of the best jazz/swing bands the writer had heard in, well, a dog's age. They call their music ghetto swing, but whatever they call it, the Yalloppin' Hounds can blow.

The band was led by G Clef, Da Mad Komposa (Scary Hound), a chap as wide as he was tall, with sideburns and a porkpie hat, who played a blistering alto saxophone and wrote most of the band's songs. The set began with the bassist Peter Hartmann (Paranoid Hound)'s bluesy solo. He was accompanied by a trumpeter of such effortless brilliance that whenever he'd raise his horn to his lips the listener could only brace herself. His name was Mark McGowan (Revolutionary Hound) and he'd worked, not surprisingly, with jazz great Illinois Jacquet and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He was joined by Mike Seropyan (Progressive Hound) from the Ukraine on tenor sax, Joe Rybczyk (Albino Hound) on keyboards and Marlon Sobol (Baby Hound) on the drums.

Georgia Jones, who doesn't have a hound name yet, was the principal girl singer. Possessing a lovely, smoky contralto, she took the lead in a couple of torchy numbers, include the remix of "One." The other girl singer, Melissa Kate Miller (Coloratura Hound) sang the song, "Why?" which managed to blend jazz with questions of epistemology and Sobol's frenzied drum solos.

Lil' Green (Scrambled Hound) took the stage for the band's rendition of "Hot Dog," and though the lyrics consisted of "Hot Dog!" and "Freeze!" she did a swell job of it. Hartmann, also called "the voice of romance," sang "You're Taken" in a wistful tenor. The band was between songs when a Mr. Softee truck showed up at the curb, and the inventive G Clef even managed to riff on the maddening little theme song.

The Hounds know how to mix jazz, rap and hip-hop, and one of their best numbers was "Oops My Bad," a rollicking tune that sticks pleasantly in the mind. "Don't Hate on the Hounds" extolled the band's numerous virtues, then Jones and Hartmann sang "Baby Make It Feel Good" before she thrilled the crowd with the sultry "Reason For My Pain," before Miller, who seemed to be given all the spiritual numbers, sang Duke Ellington's "Almighty God." She was followed by G Clef's song of a lady of questionable morals named Samantha, another brilliant fusion of jazz and rap.

The last song of the evening was "Romantic Thugs," which inspired a couple to do a restrained jitterbug before the band stand, just as twilight was coming on.

JAMS Under the Stars will present free concerts through Aug. 4, including Roy Ayers on July 27, and Noche Caliente with Cucho Martinez and the Jimmy Sabater Project on Aug. 3.

On Aug. 4 Jamaica Avenue between Parsons Boulevard and 169th Street will be given over to a day of music, art dance and general merrymaking from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call 718 286-2834 for more information - and see the Qguide cover story.

Reach Qguide writer Arlene Mckanic by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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