Live Review: Fifth Season Quartet at Lilypad

Fifth Season

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Fifth Season Quartet

Lilypad, Cambridge, MA

December 4, 2016

Another great evening of jazz from a group featuring some of the most acclaimed local jazz musicians, the Fifth Season Quartet. The line-up last night was the same as last time I reviewed this group but with one addition. The quartet of Elena Koleva (vocals), Plamen Karadonev (piano, accordion), Greg Loughman (bass), and Austin MacMahon (drums), who I had seen perform last winter, were joined now by standout jazz harpist Charles Overton.

Fifth Season

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The group opened the evening with “Falling Grace,” showcasing Elena’s rich vocals and Plamen’s piano chops. Indeed, throughout the course of the evening, there was plenty of vocal riffing and ivory tickling, but since this is a bit of an all-star cast, there were also several showcases of each member of the band’s individual talents, ranging from true solos to extended jamming led by different bandmates. One such extended bass riff occurred during “Orange Colored Sky,” which may be built around some serious vocal gymnastics but was also delivered with segments of instrumental creativity, as well.

A couple of Plamen’s original numbers were featured during the nine-song set; in each case, Elena left the stage for these instrumental pieces. Mid-set, the band performed “Urban Things,” a progressive jazz number with a bit of a harsh edge, largely focused on the accordion parts. And toward the end of the set, though not exactly an original, the band rocked through Plamen’s arrangement of a Macedonian and Romanian folk number. This arrangement, in particular, brought a great deal of energy to the room. Indeed, much of the set showcased Elena’s amazing vocals, often in balladic form, but this original was the tentpole of a threesome of set-ending energetic, faster-tempoed numbers.

Yes, the energy continued as the group ended its evening with a rousing rendition of “It Don’t Mean a Thing.” A fine ending to a terrific set of oh-so-cool jazz.

You’ll be certain to catch us at future Fifth Season Quartet gigs; they’re what you’re looking for when you crave a jazz-filled evening.

Geoff’s Night Out: Fifth Season Quartet at Social Restaurant and Bar

Fifth Season Quartet

Social Restaurant and Bar, Newton, MA

February 14, 2016

Fifth Season at Social Restaurant & Bar

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I didn’t take any notes at the club last night; I didn’t even take my camera with me (so all I have is a grainy image from my phone). It was, after all, Valentine’s Day, so I wasn’t out with the intention of writing about the show. But I would like to write a quick review of this terrific evening of music.

The event was a combination Valentine’s Day/Trifon Zarezan celebration hosted by the Bulgarian Center of New England. The jazz for the event was provided courtesy of the Fifth Season Quartet – Elena Koleva (vocals), Plamen Karadonev (piano, accordion), Greg Loughman (bass), and Austin MacMahon (drums).

Though I couldn’t tell you any of the songs performed in the first set, the music was smooth, varied, and engaging, the performance seemingly effortless yet impeccable. I never cease to be impressed with Elena’s vocals, and I also always take notice in appreciation (and perhaps this is just me) when Plamen simultaneously plays the accordion and the keys.

In addition to a couple of young, very special guest performers during each set, the group performed a few jazzed-up pop vocal numbers during the second set. I recognized songs from Billy Joel, Norah Jones. Fifth Season also added some Bulgarian jazz to the mix. In all, an enjoyable evening thanks to an exceptionally talented jazz quartet.