San Diego Story
Ken Herman
August 8, 2019

Can jazz and classical music co-habit congenially on the same stage? La Jolla SummerFest Music Director Inon Barnatan set out to answer that question in the affirmative in Wednesday’s (August 7) concert, the opening salvo in Barnatan’s new Synergy Series. Combining disciplines and art forms provides the mainspring to this series, and upcoming programs in the Synergy Series will feature music and painting as well as music and dance.

This first musical offering turned out to be more a showcase for the three artists on stage, singer Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianists Aaron Diehl and Barnatan. Winner of the 2010 Thelonius Monk International Jazz Competition, McLorin Salvant’s laid-back vocal approach recalls the insinuating phrasing of Sarah Vaughan tempered with the breathy intimacy of Blossom Dearie. She wooed her audience at The Conrad with deft self-effacing humor as she introduced each number on the trio’s 90-minute set.

Barnatan quietly opened the program with his aptly understated account of Chopin’s familiar E Major Etude. As he cadenced the first section, McLorin Salvant and Diehl came in with the same music supplied with a text for the singer by Bob Russell and Paul Weston. Nothing new here, of course—Chopin has always made for an easy transition into the pop realm: “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” anyone?