Grover Kemble and the Jerry Vezza Trio: Making up for lost time, at The Trouby

Grover Kemble at The Troubadour, Aug. 5, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Over the years, I have seen my share of memorable concerts. Paradoxically, perhaps, one that I missed stands out.

A long, long time ago, a group called Grover, Margret and Za Zu Zaz played Livingston College.

The odd name made an impression.

Lost to memory is my excuse for missing that show. Cramming for an exam? No cash? Fear of the unknown? (Google still was in the distant future.)

Fast-forward to last Friday. Grover Kemble — the Grover of Za Zu Zaz, the Grover of Sha Na Na (which shared the bill with folksinger Burl Ives on The Flip Wilson Show, another one that got away from me), the Grover who played Carnegie Hall with John Pizzarelli — performed with the razor-sharp Jerry Vezza Trio at The Troubadour in Morris Township.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin; click/hover on images for captions:

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While I’ll always regret passing on the college cafeteria gig, I’m glad for The Troubadour experience. Few performers embody the term entertainer like Grover Kemble. He shifts gears like a racer at LeMans. Calypso, jazz, blues, bawdy numbers, goofy Jimmy Durante tunes, wistful original ballads…he never misses a beat.

Backed by Jerry Vezza on piano, Hal Slapin on bass and John Vourtsis on drums, Kemble showed off the easy-chair-smooth vocals and nuanced fretboard stylings that have made him one of Greater Morristown’s musical treasures.

Kemble is no slouch in the songwriting department, either. Here is a new composition, a pandemic reflection on the long road from there to here, called Journeys:

Video: Grover Kemble, ‘Journeys’:

In this clip, Vezza, a leader in Madison’s cultural scene, leads his band in a deep dive into the Great American Songbook:

Video: The Jerry Vezza Trio at The Troubadour:

And lastly, a lighter take on this journey called life. You don’t need to Google “Jimmy Durante” to appreciate this one.

Turns out making up for lost time is fun, after all.

Video: Jimmy Kemble? Grover Durante?

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Been following Grover since his days with Margret. He never fails to provide great entertainment.Thank you for sharing these great clips.

  2. Spot-on review, Kevin, and sharing your personal context added a special dimension to it. I had to watch online from home, but Grover & Co. reminded me of performances I’ve seen at top jazz clubs in NYC.

    @Don Jay Smith: Back in the spring, Troubadour tried a show without an intermission, as a way to minimize people’s covid exposure. In various ways, it turned out, it didn’t work well for the social experience, merchandise sales, etc. The experiment was not repeated.

  3. Jerry and the trio played “You and the Night and the Music” which was written by Arthur Schwartz. It has been recorded by a number of artists, but Julie London recorded one of the greatest versions of this song. Jerry’s piano playing on it was hauntingly beautiful. Grover did a couple of calypso songs and I agree that they were both very humorous! He is a very good songwriter and I hope one day that he releases a recording of all of his work!

  4. “Follow” is a classic. I also especially liked Grover’s song “Deception”–the ensemble rocked it– and the last number by Jerry’s trio, an ethereal, sublime piece, the name of which, unfortunately, escaped me. Grover also does a calypso song about a tangled family tree. Thanks to the Troubadour’s adept audio mix, this was the first time I could make out all the lyrics. I laughed pretty hard! Arielle Silver has a nice voice and good stage presence; adding one or two lighter, uptempo songs might round out her set.

  5. I was at the show and agree that it was terrific. Grover played such a variety of tunes including “Follow” which to this listener is the best song he has ever written. As you noted, he was backed by the Jerry Vezza Trio which did a superb job. Not only is Jerry a superb pianist, Hal Slapin on the bass is rock solid and very musical and John Vortsis on drums is as tasteful a drummer you will ever hear. The opening act, singer/songwriter Arielle Silver, displayed a gorgeous voice, great finger picking and a true professionalism. She deserves wider recognition. My only complaint was that The Folk Project had an intermission and too many audience members left. These concerts should run straight through without an intermission. Other than that, kudos to the musicians and to the many volunteers who made this wonderful evening possible.

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