By Tania Fisher
As flickering candlelight spreads across the anticipating faces of couples and friends alike seated at their tables encompassed in the famed hallows of the Birdland Theater, the cozy atmosphere quickly gets a whole lot hipper, when celebrated jazz vocalist Jonathan Karrant makes his unassuming entrance to the stage with a roaring welcome and cheers.
A recipient of the New York City Jazz Cabaret Honors, “Best Singer” for the Bravo California Awards and having been named one of the top 12 rising jazz vocalists in New York by the NYC Jazz Record, it’s easy to understand why Jonathan is able to maneuver around the space of his stage with elegance and ease.
A smooth finesse about him coupled with a sharp presence, Jonathan gallantly introduces his band members and gives his thanks to New York City, before delighting his audience with a collection of standard and iconic favorite tunes from his new live album recorded in Las Vegas. Each one is imprinted with his unique take and spin, as he playfully trips and falls along with the hidden chords of a song that only he has discovered and that only he now owns.
The microphone he holds in one hand is more than that clichéd statement that it’s an extension of his hand; it’s so much more than that. It’s actually a part of him and really an extension of his voice. Jonathan’s soft smile and gentle demeanor embraces his audience as he quips lyrical (pun intended) and regales stories of working with famous and legendary jazz musicians and vocalists, using the moments between such songs as “Twisted” and “On and On,” as a chance to engage the audience into his world and make them feel as though they are honored dinner guests in his home. Each anecdote is spattered with references that evoke knowing sighs or verbal “yeah”s from his admiring fans and fellow jazz cats.
Vocally romantic and suave, it’s easy to float away on the waves of velvet that emerge from his throat and hang in the air around him poised and bathed in golden light until finally making their gentle landing upon the ears of his devotees. Jonathan can take you effortlessly from beep-bop scat to earthy and strong in a matter of seconds. He knows his repertoire extremely well and we are easily taken in by his affection and admiration for every personal path he shares with us between songs, that led him to decide to perform each particular hit.
He emotes an air of old-world wisdom that conveys his professional and technical knowledge which enables him to effortlessly command the attention of the entire room and evoke emotion in the most hardened of hearts.
Jonathan is supported by remarkably talented and highly skilled band members, such as the experienced and versatile Alex Minasian on piano. Alex, having been an NYU graduate, has developed into not only an accomplished master of his instrument but also a musical director and impresario. Alex manipulates the ivories with organic panache that makes it looks easy and does so with a fearless spirit.
Yoshi Waki on jazz bass, provides a funky and unique hip beat with melodic alternatives not always found in jazz bands. His quirky, yet humble, personality shone through. Having worked with a large spectrum of legendary talents such as the Artie Shaw Orchestra, and Deborah Harry, Yoshi gave moments of stupendous originality as well as entertainment value.
Dwayne “Cook” Broadnax on drums is mesmerizing to watch and holds all eyes on him as we witness an almost savant-like moment during his solo pieces which he does with his eyes seemingly closed as he works his way from his symbols to his skins, then eventually only coming up for air on the final crash.
An evening with Jonathan Karrant will help you get your swagger back, and experiencing his collection of jazz favorites is like being taken back in time, to those days when those now namable legends were just starting out, and when the wee hours of the night was just when things were starting to get hot, and when jazz clubs were the place to be.
If you’re the type to swing with the cool cats of jazz, or the type who would have liked to have hung out with the Ratpack, or if you just like to remember those days when songs were really about something and hear them delivered the way they should be, then let Jonathan Karrant take you where you need to go.