Monday, November 17, 2014

This Little Underground: The Chris Charles Quartet at the Smiling Bison

Posted By on Mon, Nov 17, 2014 at 6:12 PM

This Little Underground is Orlando Weekly's music column providing perspective, live reviews and news on the city's music scene. Read the latest column here.

click to enlarge The Chris Charles Quartet at the Smiling Bison
  • The Chris Charles Quartet at the Smiling Bison

The Chris Charles Quartet at the Smiling Bison

Last week, I wrote about how Rocco’s Italian Grille – considering all the moves they’ve made recently like extending their bar hours and bringing aboard entertainers and bar staff from the Red Fox Lounge – is positioned nicely to become a supper club. Well, with music offerings like what I just saw at Jazz Tuesdays with the Chris Charles Quartet (Nov. 11), it looks like the Smiling Bison is already there.

I have great memories of nights at the old Redlight Redlight location on Bennet Road digging into acts like the Cook Trio. Even though it’s now home to noted restaurant the Smiling Bison, the space has continued to host live music on the reg several times a week.

Nowadays, live music in restaurants, if you can find it, is more often just token background soundtrack for whatever else you’re doing (eating, drinking, conversing). What the Bison offers, however, is a show. If you don’t want music to be at the center of your experience, you should really sit at one of the tables on the other side of the restaurant. But for entertainment seekers, this should be music to your ears.

click to enlarge The Chris Charles Quartet and friends at the Smiling Bison (photo by Ashley Belanger)
  • The Chris Charles Quartet and friends at the Smiling Bison (photo by Ashley Belanger)

The Chris Charles Quartet and friends at the Smiling Bison (photo by Ashley Belanger)

The featured quartet on the Bison’s most regular night is an Outer Toons-affiliated jazz group and they really swung. With legit players on sax, piano, upright bass and drums, this foursome alone could’ve carried the night with cool ease. But you actually get much more bang because in the time I was there at least seven guests had taken the stage, and it looked like there were more on deck. Throughout the night, a steady flow of players kept rolling in packing instruments. It’s a fluid, open format that translates into more experience for spectators. Moreover, perhaps because it was populated heavily with musicians, the audience experience was a tuned-in, jazz-minded one where even solos are actively applauded. It all sounds a lot like a music club vibe, doesn’t it? Well, that’s exactly what I felt, and it was pretty great. I arrived around 9:00 PM and so witnessed the changeover from restaurant to listening room, and it was an impressively smooth and natural one, ultimately transforming into something that’s as close to a real jazz club as I’ve seen in this town in many years.

click to enlarge The Chris Charles Quartet and friends at the Smiling Bison (photo by Ashley Belanger)
  • The Chris Charles Quartet and friends at the Smiling Bison (photo by Ashley Belanger)

The Chris Charles Quartet and friends at the Smiling Bison (photo by Ashley Belanger)

But their music offerings aren’t just limited to jazz. The marquee rotates but is known to include notable happenings like a monthly songwriters’ series headed by Beth McKee and appearances by other local respectables like hard-soul star Eugene Snowden and the always righteous Gerry Williams Band. But jazz heads unite, because Tuesdays already have a true rhythm and it’s tuned to your channel.

For many – me included – cool weather just calls for jazz. With the temperatures easing down a bit (yes, lows in the 50s qualify as “cool” for us around here), the idea of live jazz becomes an imperative again, and the Chris Charles Quartet’s weekly stand is it.

Read more This Little Underground:

click to enlarge Rocco’s carries the Red Fox torch
  • Rocco’s carries the Red Fox torch

Rocco’s carries the Red Fox torch

Follow Bao on Twitter (@baolehuu)

Email Bao: baolehuu@orlandoweekly.com

 

 

 

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