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BWW Review: Aaron Lee Battle Tames the Heat With Cool Jazz at West Bank Cafe

Aaron Lee Battle Reinvents Great American Standards

BWW Review: Aaron Lee Battle Tames the Heat With Cool Jazz at West Bank Cafe

Outside the West Bank Cafe tonight it was hot and sultry. However, inside it was all cool jazz. I was fortunate enough to catch a set by Aaron Lee Battle and Jon Weber as part of the West Bank's Dinner Music series. They made me forget all about the sticky weather outdoors. Aaron Lee Battle has a voice that's as smooth and comforting as silk pajamas. He chose a program of standards from the Great American songbook and then put a jazz twist on them that made them all sound as fresh as the day they were written.

He opened with "I'm So Glad You Did," a gospel number that extolls the virtue of gratitude. He followed that up with "Ain't Misbehavin'," and gave a long solo to Jon Weber. Weber played stride piano that would have rivaled Fats Waller himself. I was particularly fond of "Part of the Human Heart" from Once On This Island. It was a perfect match for the velvety quality of Battle's voice. He then treated us to Jule Styne's "Just in Time," Cole Porter's "Love For Sale," Nature Boy" by Eden Ahbez, Cy Coleman's "The Best is Yet to Come," and Rodgers and Hart's "My Romance." Each one was better than the last. My only regret was that I finished my dinner and couldn't stay all night.

Jon Weber is more than an accompanist. He is a true jazz artist who creates arrangements that are imaginative and innovative. He goes to the unexpected place with these standard tunes. He gives Aaron Lee Battle space to soar on top of his beautiful chords. The musical interplay between singer and pianist was a joy to listen to. It was a perfect marriage of warm and brittle, passionate and cerebral.

Since the West Bank Cafe started their dinner music series, they have consistently booked great talent. It is a testament to one of the things that make New York such an amazing city: the artists who call this place home are working at the top of their game and are always moving the goalpost toward something finer, something more challenging, and something more beautiful. I am grateful to the West Bank Cafe for creating an artistic outlet where one didn't exist before. And I'm very grateful to Aaron Lee Battle and Jon Weber for sharing a piece of their heart with me tonight.

For more information on Aaron Lee Battle, check him out @aaronleebattle on Instagram and Twitter. For more from Jon Weber, visit jonwebermusic.com. And to make a dinner reservation and see other artists at The West Bank Cafe, go to westbankcafe.com.


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