Friday night was billed as "The Gentleman Sing" concert at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Jazz Concert Hall, and the gentlemen did sing. Three of them, spanning three generations, representing the past, present and future of the male jazz vocal tradition. For some reason, however, the hall wasn't sold out the way it usually is.
The present was represented by Allan Harris, who has a Pittsburgh connection. He lived at one point on his grandfather's farm outside McDonald and greeted many audience members by name after the show. He started out his segment with "I Remember You," strapped on a Les Paul guitar for "Can't Live My Life Without You" -- which recalled the classic organ-guitar trio -- and amped up, if ever so slightly, "Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise."
The show also served as an introduction to Milton Suggs, a Chicago native who won a nationwide talent search sponsored by MCG Jazz. He started his set with a twist on "Honeysuckle Rose," sang his own lyrics -- pretty impressive for a young cat -- to Benny Golson's classic "Along Came Betty" and finished with "Body and Soul." While he clearly has the chops and the knowledge, he lacked stage presence. His delivery was somewhat stiff and not really flowing -- jitters, perhaps. He likely just needs some seasoning.
Of course they saved the master for last, just to show everyone else how it was done, and Ernie Andrews delivered. Opening with "Beautiful Friendship" and moving to "Our Love is Here to Stay," the 86-year-old Mr. Andrews, who routinely soared into the tenor range, kept much of the audience enthralled. Doing a tribute to musicians that have passed on, he came up with "All Blues," to which he wrote his own words; and a lengthy tribute medley to Duke Ellington, turning "Take the 'A' Train" into a ballad at one point. He also yukked it up with saxophonist Jesse Jones Jr. during James Taylor's "Fire and Rain."
All three singers came out for the closing "Route 66," which allowed all three of them to trade off, got Mr. Jones involved in the scat-fest and gave Mr. Harris another turn at the six-string.
A note: Local legend Roger Humphries substituted for the regular drummer, who was unable to make the gig.
Rick Nowlin: email@example.com or 412-263-3871.