(2015 Cuca Records)
You can purchase this recording at the Cuca Records store.
You can listen and download here.
I first met Harris Lemberg and John Widdicombe back in the mid-eighties. They were playing together at Le Bistro, a little bar and restaurant inside a swanky little strip mall on Odana Road, before strip malls became ubiquitous. My first wife was one of the managers and I would come in from time to time and hang out while waiting for her to get off work.
John was married to the sister of one of my best friend’s wife. He’s a real decent man, one of the best I’ve known and real chill. I remember marveling at his disfigured hands. Yes, playing the standup bass will permanently bend your fingers, particularly the plucking hand. I was playing a lot of twelve-string at the time and that could draw blood after a while. I just couldn’t imagine what those thick bass strings would do, probably shred the fingerprints right off.
John’s wife was one of the Kirchstein girls whose father was Jim, the founder of Cuca Records which has a long and important history in Wisconsin music, as does Jim with music and early radio broadcasting (a recent UW thesis has been published on the history of Cuca Records).
It’s great to see them all involved with this recording project as well as Rand Moore, the longtime jazz drummer and owner of Drums ‘n’ Moore, as well as Audio for the Arts, the local recording studio that exudes class and professionalism. This recording was made in early 2015 as part of a series of live presentations the studio was doing so it is recorded in front of a live audience.
I don’t remember John ever singing from the early days or whenever I’ve seen him around. I had no idea he sang so well, with a full voice exuding that coolness embedded in his personality.
I do remember Harris being a marvelous pianist, even way back in the eighties. He still plays a beautiful piano as he demonstrates wonderfully on an instrumental version of “I Loves You, Porgy.” The trio is in total lockstep on Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek,” Widdicombe demonstrating his ability to sing while playing a complicated walking bass line. He turns in another nice vocal on “Moonlight in Vermont.” Lemberg’s fingers dance across the across the ivories on “Stompin’ at the Savoy.”
Madison jazz recordings are a bit of a rarity so each is to be savored. This one may reach way back to the standards but it is alive and fresh in the hands of Steve Gotcher and Audio for the Arts.
Here is a link to a performance from the same event which was not included on the recording: