Versatile pianist J.C. Hopkins and his soaring, explosive Biggish Band has been holding court for several years at their Saturday Night residency at Milton’s Playhouse, updating a tradition and carrying on a legacy that began at the historic club in the 1940s, when Dizzy, Monk and others headlined there and essentially invented bebop.
Hopkins and Co. first shared their powerhouse, multi-faceted sound and freewheeling spirit of showcasing vocalists on their 2017 debut recording Meet Me at Minton’s – and New York Moment is a formidable, high spirited follow-up. Starting with a pre-stardom Norah Jones, the Hopkins Biggish Band has hosted some of NYC’s premiere vocalists.
While the set list of compelling originals (complemented by the buoyant, brassy and sax solo driven jam roll through Charles Mingus’ “Better Git It In Your Soul”) offers a sparkling, polyrhythmic aural picture of what the nine musician/artists do in seamless, inspiring tandem, the overall purpose on this alternately buoyant and sultry 11-track set seems to be shining a spotlight on singers worthy of more attention and praise.
These include Joy Hanson (offering solid romantic reasons to “Close Your Eyes” and a glimpse of “The Wonderful Things To Come”), Alicyn Yaffee (the boisterous gospelly funk jam “The Children Will Lead Us”), Vanisha Gould (the moody, late night “Sublime Beauty”) and Shawn Whithorn (the old fashioned, plaintive and sultry “Oh Kitty”).
Biggish Band MVP Nico Sarbanes pulls glorious double duty, amiably tackling vocals on the duets with Hanson “Beguiled” and “What Would You Say?” and the solo features “We Can Change the World” and “Lulu” while also blasting some wild trumpet solos where they best fit in.