by Beverly J. Packard
August, 2005, brought Nick Colionne and a memorable concert experience to Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in Reading. I wish I could provide a video clip right here so that you could be properly introduced, or re-introduced, to this most debonair of artists. He's got to be on the list of the Best Dressed artists of the year, and by the looks of his website and CD covers, he's taken his place on this list for a number of years.
Lest I seem to make his appearance more important than it should be in the overall scheme of things, let me quickly add that it only enhances the substance that is found in his playing. If I could characterize him with one phrase, I'd say his playing comes from deep within him -- his music is etched with lines of life, experience, raw feeling and soul almost beyond belief.
The first two songs were from Colionne's first CD, It's My Turn. The soul showed up right away in 'Soulful Strut,' and by the time the band finished 'Back Down Evergreen,' I had only one word in mind: unbelievable. The pace slowed with 'A Rainy Night in Georgia,' a truly beautiful rendition with Nick as vocalist, a very capable master of musical phrasing. The set also included 'It's Been Too Long' from his current CD.
Nick's band included Brian Danzy and John Blasucci on keyboards; Dave Hiltebrand on bass, and Chris Miskel on drums. 'Drumbalaya,' written by keyboard player Brian Danzy, began with the drums and moved into a Latin jazz sound. Miskel is a very crisp, precise player.
There is so much to say about Nick Colionne. He's distinctive in his playing, his style, his smile and the twinkle in his eye. And he has not only a very distinctive guitar voice, but also a distinctive human voice, along with a ready sense of humor. His CD commercials, personally directed to the ladies in the audience, brought some good laughs and no doubt some extra CD sales. With his white hat and stylish clothes, he's the epitome of smooth, for sure.
In addition to everything else that makes up Nick Colionne, intensity is another facet. As he closes the distance between himself and others in the band, his intense eye contact brings out the best in both himself and the selected player. It's as if they stare into each other's souls until they're on the same plane ' the same wavelength. What a sight to see.
Nick is a master of timing. He does the unexpected and it fits perfectly. My favorite song of the evening was the poignant 'Everything Must Change.' The band did a superb job, and although he mentioned this song was for a particular person in the audience ' 'she knows who she is,' he undoubtedly knew that many of us could personally relate to the words of that song, which are like an oasis in the uncertain desert of change.
The tribute to George Benson's 'On Broadway' was a great opportunity for Colionne to show his love of the guitar playing and inspiration of Benson. I believe Nick went to the same place Gerald Veasley goes when he plays; there must be some kind of jazz base up there in the clouds. During this number, when I was certain keyboardist Danzy went about as far as a keyboard player could go, he went even farther. I don't think any of us could believe what we saw and heard! This song really showed how fluid these players are.
The show ended with 'Just Come On In' from the new CD of the same title. Again, a great demonstration of all the talent in this band, with even more evidence of the nimble fingers of the keyboard player.
For those who've seen Colionne often, count yourself blessed. As for me, I was awestruck and am eager to be in the audience again when he's on stage.
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Photo Credits: Michael C. Packard (seen here with Nick Colionne)