The jazz grooves of Joel Penner are so pleasing to the ear that it’s easy to overlook how sophisticated his sound can be. Influenced by the big band and bebop records of the ‘40s and ‘50s, Penner and his talented sextet keep jazz rooms jumpin’ with memorable melody lines, percolating rhythms, and inventive solos. The band’s interpretations of popular tunes by Cole Porter, Freddie Hubbard and Richard Rogers swing with a familiar, timeless glow.
Yet Penner is no human jukebox stuck in reverse. The Burbank-based flugelhorn and trumpet player ventures into contemporary terrain as well, in selections like the funky Keith Jarrett number “The Windup,” found on Penner’s 2005 release The Church of the Little Black Dog. This recording, in fact, demonstrates just how unpredictable Penner and his band—featuring stellar guitarist Doug MacDonald—get, roaming from the Latin-tinged “Invitation” to the original hard bop of MacDonald’s “T&G” to Airto Moreira’s percussion-heavy, Brazilian-spiced “Tombo in 7/4.”
It’s really not surprising that the multi-talented Penner doesn’t limit himself to straight-ahead jazz. Or even music, for that matter. Since graduating with a music degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1968, he’s received his license as an acupuncturist/herbalist, has co-authored a book on Chinese medicine, and lectured on the topic. Still, since 1999, Penner has poured his energy into his sextet, realizing that his intricate music is where the real magic happens. (John Roos)
The Claremont Depot Jazz Series presents the Joel Penner Sextet at the Claremont Train Depot, 200 W. First St., Claremont, (909) 399-5490; www.ci.claremont.ca.us/leisurerecreation. Fri., 7-8:30 p.m. Free. All ages.