Las Vegas Sun

December 13, 2018

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Columnist Jerry Fink: At David’s, Phy sets a high standard

Hardcore jazz fans should be swarming Steven David's to hear David Phy and his quintet, the Jazz Standard.

For the past three months, on Tuesday nights, the ensemble has been perfecting its performance -- playing music created by some of the greatest jazz composers and musicians who have ever graced a nightclub.

"There are a lot of jazz fans out there," Phy said. "But this is just a weird night."

The night will be changing this month -- possibly moving to the weekend (For information, call the club at 214-1863).

"This club screams jazz," said the 30-year-old saxophonist of the 7-month-old venue at 545 E. Sahara Ave.

Backed by saxophonist Juan Turros (who performs with "Tropical Passion" at the Sahara), drummer Todd Smith (a musician at Mandalay Bay's rumjungle), bassist Eric Renquist (Jazz Cafe), pianist Etsuko and trumpeter Mike Gonzales, The Jazz Standard has been raising the standard of jazz in Vegas.

"This town needs a musical enema as far as what has gotten popular," Phy said. "The bands are getting tracks. They're getting smaller. You hear the same set of songs in every hotel by every band. No one is stretching out."

That isn't the case with Phy's ensemble.

"We try to do what should be considered jazz music," he said. "We're going to play obscure tunes for intense people who want to come out and listen."

They play music by some of the more recognizable jazz legends, such as Miles Davis, but they also reach deep into the well of classic musicians the average music fan hasn't heard of.

Earlier this week it was the music of Joe Henderson, a jazz saxophonist who died of a heart attack at age 65 in San Francisco in 2001.

Each session is like a mini-class in jazz, focusing on a different composer or musician every week.

Phy talks about the person who created the music, and then his group plays works by the artist.

One of Henderson's most popular pieces was "Inner Urge."

"It was written back in the '60s, when there was a lot of social unrest," Phy explained to the fans in the room at the beginning of the set."It is reflective of that era."

Phy has coined a term for the blending of performance and education -- "edu-tainment."

Music education has always been an integral part of the native of Kentucky.

His father is a music teacher, and always filled the house with music.

Phy attended the University of Louisville on a music scholarship and then got his masters at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, focusing on jazz performance.

After working on cruise ships, he came to Vegas about three years ago.

It was either Vegas, New York or Los Angeles.

"Several people said Vegas was a happening place," he said. "It's one of the few places in America where musicians can eke out a living playing music."

When he arrived he landed a gig with "The Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey and Dean" at the Greek Isles, which lasted almost two years, and then he worked with Elvis tribute artist Trent Carlini at the Las Vegas Hilton for about a year.

"Now, I'm freelancing as much as possible," Phy said.

It isn't easy to make a living doing the music he wants to do.

"Doing original music in Vegas is very hard," he said.

But he isn't discouraged about Vegas' seeming lack of interest in jazz.

"I've always had the philosophy that not everyone can say no," Phy said. "If every good jazz musician in town got a trio together and started hassling bartenders, someone is going to say 'Yes' at some point."

Lounging around

The lineup of entertainment in June at the Troubadour Lounge at Joker's Wild in Henderson includes vocalist Drew Baker from 8 p.m. to 1:40 a.m. through June 11 and Flashback from 8:30 p.m. to 2:10 a.m. June 17 through June 25. For more information, call 564-8100.

R&B legend Ruth Brown is back at the Bootlegger at 9 p.m. Thursday nights after being away for several weeks because of illness.

Lena Prima, daughter of the legendary Louis Prima, will perform Sunday; the "Three Tenors of Las Vegas" will give an encore performance on June 12; Caz Solomon and Bobby Rose will appear June 19; and on June 26 Carmine Mandia, Ryan Baker and Larry Liso will perform in "Shades of Sinatra" (featuring Kelly Clinton as Nancy Sinatra).

Clinton continues her popular Monday night Celebrity Karaoke gig at the Bootlegger, Louie Merlino performs a variety of music on Tuesdays, saxophonist Martin Mancuso performs jazz on Wednesdays and Sonny King continues to host "Off the Cuff" on Fridays and Saturdays.

For further information, call 736-4939.

The Cannery will host its third annual "Blues, Brews and Barbecue Festival" from June 17-18 at The Club, serving up various styles of barbecue from several local restaurants along with craft-brewed beers and hard ciders.

The hours are 5 p.m. to midnight June 17 and 2 p.m. to midnight June 18.

Admission is $5.

John Lee Hooker Jr. will sing blues songs from his Grammy-nominated CD, "Blues with a Vengeance," at 9 p.m. both nights.

Moody Scott, famed for his blues and zydeco tunes, will perform at 6 p.m. each night.

Other entertainment includes the Blowin' Smoke Rhythm & Blues Band; Blues Storm and Section 8.

For information, call 507-5700.