Music lovers are ready and waiting inside Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts this Sunday, April 24, 2022 afternoon for a concert of live jazz by Danny Jonokuchi and the Revisionists.
Danny Jonokuchi is an award-winning jazz trumpeter, composer, producer, and vocalist whose musical arrangements have been performed by such well-known artists as Lady Gaga. He’s performed on dozens of studio albums and has been seen on television on HBO, PBS, and ABC’s Good Morning America. As a performer, he’s traveled the world touring such countries as the UK, South Korea, Israel, Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and Belgium.
Jonokuchi’s musical ensemble, The Revisionists, is a NYC-based swing band. The group’s debut album, 2019’s Let Me Off Uptown, features original songs, as well as songs made famous by artists including Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Members of The Revisionists include Willerm Delisfort on piano, Alexa Barchini on vocals, Robert Edwards on trombone, Noah Jackson on bass, Ricky Alexander on woodwinds, and Kevin Congleton on drums.
Sandy Josephson of the New Jersey Jazz Society welcomes the audience to today’s show. After explaining that this Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon event will feature the music of Count Basie and Duke Ellington, Jonokuchi and The Revisionists’ instrumentalists take their places on stage.
With Jonokuchi on trumpet, Robert Edwards on trombone, and Ricky Alexander on sax, the sextet swings in harmony as they take the audience back in time to 1941 with their performance of Count Basie’s “9:20 Special.”
Setting the crowd’s toes a-tapping, the wind players trade off on inspired solos before Noah Jackson is featured, his hands walking up and down the bass while the band continues to swing on this spirited Jonokuchi arrangement.
Jonokuchi greets the audience inquiring, “How’s everybody feeling here? We love having a live experience, so thank you for supporting live music and coming to hear the music of two of the greatest jazz musicians, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.”
Willerm Delisfort’s tasty piano runs accompany the rhythm section on Basie’s “Splanky.” The bebop sound of Ricky Alexander’s alto sax is accompanied by the staccato blips of Jonokuchi’s trumpet, and Noah Jackson’s cool bass work brings applause from the audience. Jonokuchi on trumpet and Robert Edwards on trombone play in harmony with mutes and are echoed by Alexander’s sax. The instrumentalists take the arrangement home with solid drumming by Kevin Congleton and a patented Count Basie three-chord piano ending by Willerm Delisfort.
After singing lead on a slow swing arrangement of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” Jonokuchi introduces vocalist Alexa Barchini who takes the stage looking edgy in a black leather jacket and a white ruffled dress. Launching into a medley of Count Basie’s “You’re Driving Me Crazy” and “Moten Swing,” Barchini’s smooth vocal contrasts with the swinging staccato sound of the band.
Alexander’s sax dances over the horns’ harmonies, bringing applause from the attentive crowd. Jonokuchi impresses with a muted trumpet solo before Edwards plays high and then growls low on his trombone to avid applause.
A highlight of the group’s set is Jonokuchi and the Revisionists’ rendition of Count Basie’s “Shiny Stockings.” The ensemble sounds as rich and full as a small orchestra on Jonokuchi’s top-notch arrangement. Barchini sings with style and ease before Delisfort plays a thoughtful piano solo and Congleton uses brushes on his drums to create a soft, smooth sound. Audience members can’t help but bop their heads in rhythm as the pristine sound of the band envelopes the auditorium.
Jonokuchi says, “We’re going to slow it down after that ‘hot jazz,’’’ and Barchini exits the stage leaving the instrumentalists to perform the Basie ballad, “Lil Darlin’.” Jonokuchi counts off the tempo and Delisfort enters with piano chords accompanied by Congleton’s brush work on the snare which sets a sultry mood. Ricky Alexander plays rich, long tones with vibrato on his sax, effortlessly playing runs up and down his instrument with varying dynamics which add to the the mood of the piece.
Barchini returns for a sweet and seductive rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon.” Singing, “Fly me to the moon/And let me play among the stars/Let me see what spring is like/On Jupiter and Mars,” she makes the song her own. She softly snaps her fingers as the band shines on an instrumental verse before vocally bending notes and improvising on the melody to energetic audience applause.
Jonokuchi confesses that he only finished the arrangement for the group’s next number at “two or three in the morning.” Starting with the wind instruments gently swinging in perfect harmony, Barchini switches with ease from her rich alto to her sweet soprano register while crooning “April in Paris.”
Delisfort’s piano solo elicits “hoots” from the crowd before Jonokuchi and company play a reprise of the arrangement’s dramatic ending.
Jonokuchi tells the audience that during the pandemic, he received his masters’ degree from Queens College. He takes a moment to give a shout out to one of his favorite teachers, Ricky Riccardi, who is in the audience this afternoon, fresh off his recent Grammy win for best album notes on The Complete Louis Armstrong Columbia and RCA Victor Studio Sessions 1946–1966.
Here, the ensemble launches into a dynamic version of Count Basie’s “Night Train.” Playing rhythmically in close harmony, the horn notes bend and bounce from the stage to the audience’s ears as the song rhythmically bounds along. Edwards plays a tremolo trombone solo that brings applause from the crowd. Then, Jonokuchi holds the mic for Noah Jackson who scat sings as he solos high and low on his stand-up bass.
Delisfort solos with expert skill and the winds play in close harmony taking the audience on a ride that grows louder before ending with a flourish to enthusiastic applause.
The music of Duke Ellington becomes the focus as Barchini returns and Jonokuchi and Barchini perform a vocal duet on “Just Squeeze Me.”
On this delightful ditty, Alexander plays a bouncy sax solo and Barchini demonstrates her range and musicianship by scatting around the melody.
Rob Edwards is featured on trombone on his own arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Blue Cellophane.” Lots of melodic runs showcase Edwards’ skill with his slide as he’s accompanied by his colleagues who provide intricate harmonies throughout this high-quality arrangement.
Jonokuchi announces, “We’re going to pick up the tempo,” as the group launches into the Ellington classic “Cottontail.” Jonokuchi plays muted trumpet before he and saxophonist Alexander are featured together. A precision drum solo by Congleton brings applause as Jonokuchi exclaims, “There’s a lot going on in that one!”
Barchini returns to handle the lead vocal on “I’m Just a Lucky So and So.” Then, the ensemble leaves the stage so that Barchini can be featured on Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss,” accompanied solely by Willerm Delisfort on piano.
On this highlight number, Barchini serenades the audience, her lovely voice exposed and her inflection sounding reminiscent of Billie Holiday as she sings, “If you hear a song in blue/Like a flower crying for dew/That was my heart serenading you/My prelude to a kiss.” The music flowing, Delisfort plays a contemplative piano solo which has the audience cheering before Jonokuchi returns saying, “Beautiful, Beautiful! They are marvelous together!”
The rest of the Revisionists also retake the stage and launch into an upbeat rendition of Ellington’s “In a Mellow Tone.” Barchini’s vocal appears effortless on Jonokuchi’s carefree arrangement. Edwards, Jonokuchi, and Alexander are featured on trombone, trumpet, and sax solos, and Delisfort and Jackson also get the audiences’ attention with expert piano and bass solos.
Jonokuchi thanks the audience for coming before he and the band perform their final number of the afternoon, the Duke Ellington classic, “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Following a Delisfort piano intro, the horns play in harmony, and then Barchini takes the audience to Harlem as she sings and the band swings. The audience reacts with a standing ovation for this talented group of musicians.
As the crowd makes its way out of the Grunin Center auditorium, we take a moment to chat with bandleader Danny Jonokuchi who tells us, “It was such a pleasure to play here today and in a theater where the music sounds so good! Also, to have such an attentive audience that understands music and loves it was a real treat, too.”
We additionally chat with several members of the audience who share their thoughts with us on today’s performance. Declares Scott from Brielle, “Danny Jonokuchi and the Revisionists were fantastic — they’re high quality musicians,” before noting, “It was especially great to hear the music of Duke Ellington. He was quite the composer, and I loved Danny Jonokuchi’s arrangements; they were a lot of fun to listen to.”
Tom from Toms River agrees, adding, “Those were terrific arrangements of the classics. The Count Basie songs were terrific. Overall, it was an excellent afternoon of music played by consummate musicians.”
Comments Rich from Whiting Station, “I loved the way they all played so well together. There were so many great songs to choose from and I really enjoyed the arrangements. Also, Robert Edwards on trombone was excellent.”
Lastly, we chat with Maureen from Manchester who calls today’s program by Danny Jonokuchi and the Revisionists “Excellent.” Explaining, “Alexis Barchini had quite a vocal range” and “all the musicians sounded so good together,” Maureen concludes by exclaiming, “I just loved it all!”
To learn more about Danny Jonokuchi and the Revisionists, please to go dannyjonokuchi.com. For further information on upcoming performances at the Grunin Center — including the Charlie Appicella Trio featuring Don Braden on May 22 — please go to grunincenter.org.
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