Usually hanging around in New York and the Zinc Bar, or maybe his native Pittsburg, jazz guitar virtuoso Ron Affif took a brief sojurn to Central Florida in mid October for a few gigs. He was booked for four nights at the Jazz Company, a cozy little club at Disney World's Pleasure Island playing four brief sets per night. The experience of seeing Ron live and close up was certainly a pleasure for me.
Backed up by bassist Michael Bochiccio and a drummer whose name I missed, Ron launched into a lively 45 minute set featuring tunes from his latest CDs. He started out with "If I Were A Bell" from his latest CD, Ringside (see the JGO review here). The tempo was a good deal slower than on the recording, but still galloped along nicely. Ron's first solo of the night started out a bit hesitantly (for him -- it would have been pure genius for me!) as he felt out the room. His command of the Bebop language and the fretboard cannot be disputed. He seemed to delve into a bit more chromaticism that on his recordings, and used many cross-string fingerings with ease. After a few more tunes (including his original "Uncle Joe"), Ron and the trio began to settle in.
The tourists with their mouse ears and the few jazz die hards who came down from Orlando thorougly enjoyed the set. Ron really relaxed into the groove on "Love Walked In", the ballad of the set. Sitting in the front row right next to the stage, I could hear him singing his lines as he played. Ron's Buscarino Monarch sounded beautiful, even through the rented Roland Jazz Chorus he was forced to use.
The trio finished the set with a swinging reading of "Broadway". Ron really laid into it on that tune. He took more chances than usual on his solo, launching into blistering 32nd note runs from time to time and delving into parallel harmonies. Anyone who appreciates his recorded work would have been well satisfied.
After the set, I had an opportunity to chat with Ron briefly. He was having trouble hearing things properly in that room, although you wouldn't know it from his fine performance. He indicated that he was very happy with his new Buscarino guitar. And from the sound of his playing, everyone else in the room was happy too.