Sunday, January 25, 2015

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview (February and March)


The 2014-15 jazz concert season is running hot in Southwest Florida. Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, in February and March.
Pat Martino

  •  Wednesday, February 4 – Guitarist Pat Martino is the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra’s special guest. Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, February 9, 2015 – Twin saxophonists Peter and Will Anderson are featured with their quintet in the Charlotte County Jazz Society‘s Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County. 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, February 12 – Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa.
  • Saturday, February 21 – 10th annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival, Laishley Park, Punta Gorda, 1-6 pm. Saxophonist Mindi Abair (back for her seventh consecutive year), guitarist Nick Colionne and saxophonist Dave Koz are featured at this smooth jazz event. The mainstream jazz portion of the weekend is at the Isles Yacht Club Sunday jazz brunch, which is sponsored by Presley Beane Financial Services. The brunch will feature drummer-singer Patricia Dean, trombonist Herb Bruce, pianist Jeff Philips, bassist and guitarist Dave Trefethen, and drummer-vibraphonist Joe Bilardo. All will mix it up in varied combinations between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 25 – Singer Rene Marie. Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa.
  • Saturday, February 28 – Singer Giacomo Gates, South County Jazz Club concert series, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 1 to Saturday, March 7 – 35th annual Sarasota Jazz Festival. The lineup includes pianist Dick Hyman, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, singers Freddy Cole, June Garber, Karla Harris, and Kitt Moran. Concerts are at the Riverview High School Performing Arts Center in Sarasota.
  • Wednesday, March 4 – Saxophonist Jimmy Heath is the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra’s special guest. Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 8 Trumpeter/sanger Bria Skonberg. South County Jazz Club concert series, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 2 p.m.
  •  Monday, March 9  – Trombonist Bill Allred’s Classic Jazz Band in concert, Charlotte County Jazz Society’s Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County. 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 14 and Sunday, March 15  – Banjo player Cynthia Sayer. South County Jazz Club concert series, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota. Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
  • -Friday, March 20 – Singer Carla Cook with the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Quintet. Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Fort Myers.
Several local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, The Orange House in Punta Gorda, The Roadhouse in Ft. Myers, and Alto in Naples) offer jazz steadily. Be sure to check the Alto and JD's websites for occasional guest headliners. A variety of matinee concerts sponsored all season by the Jazz Club of Sarasota and the South County Jazz Club also keep things swinging for jazz lovers.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jersey Jazz book review

Mitchell Seidel has reviewed my new book, Jazz in the Key of Light, in February's edition of Jersey Jazz, the New Jersey Jazz Society's monthly journal.

Here is one excerpt from his two-page review:

"There are interesting photographic moments to be found throughout the book, not all of them directly related to playing the music. Dizzy Gillespie is seen warming up his chops on the pool deck of a jazz cruise, his audience a trio of comely bikini-clad women. While Gillespie's quote concerns Louis Armstrong's effect on all musicians, the presence of three curious 'civilians' in the shot echoes Satchmo's ability to draw a crowd, even among non-jazz fans."

The book is available through Amazon.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Artful jazz with a few twists

Bill Buchman
Sarasota-based Bill Buchman is an artful guy. He's a renowned painter and art teacher. The several places he teaches these days include the Venice FL Art Center. On Thursday, January 22, he set his brushes aside and wore a different hat - as a very fine jazz pianist. Buchman teamed up with bassist Don Mopsick and drummer Chuck Parr in the South County Jazz Club's  matinee performance series in the Art Center's main gallery.

Over two sets, Buchman, Mopsick and Parr explored a wide range of Great American Songbook, pop and jazz standards. Favorites: their takes on Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa," Paul Desmond's "Take Five," "Poinciana," the show tune that Ahmad Jamal singlehandedly turned into a jazz standard, and Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom." Buchman brings his own touch and musical sensibility to every tune. He seems a bebopper at heart, but his inventiveness crosses the stylistic gamut. Two unusual treats: his boogie-woogie treatments of Miles Davis's "All Blues" and the rousing "Sweet Georgia Brown."

The concert was recorded for a live CD that Buchman will release in the next month or so on his Art is Poetry label. (Note: he also has a blues band).

Bill Buchman, Don Mopsick, Chuck Parr


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Special jazz moments, all night long

Larry Coryell
Guitarist Larry Coryell is a musical force unto himself, but when he gets to converse with other musicians, the results can border on magical. Such was the case Saturday, January 17 when the jazz-rock veteran, now more comfortably digging into standard fare, performed in the South County Jazz Club series at Sarasota's Glenridge Performing Arts Center.
Coryell, Neuenschwander

A year ago, Coryell played the Glenridge as a solo act. This time, he performed with bassist Markl Neuenschwander and drummer Tracy Alexander. It was the first time he'd worked with either of them, though early in his career, he did work with the drummer's father, Mousey Alexander. Mousey, a prominent jazz drummer in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, died in 1988.

The rapport among the three was beautiful because of their degree of anticipating each other, enjoying what they heard from each other and the collective result. Coryell and Neuenschwander were locked into an uncommon conversational interplay all night.

Special treats: 

  • Coryell's 90-minute set included two musical tips of the hat. The trio performed an extended exploration of Dave Brubeck's ballad "In Your Own Sweet Way" and
    then played Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" in memory of guitarist Jim Hall, who died  in December 2013. He said he chose the latter tune because Hall loved Ellington's music. As for Brubeck, Coryell told the crowd of 230+ that "Dave Brubeck can never be replaced. All we can do is play his music as best we can."
  • Coryell, 71, shifted from electric guitar to acoustic for the night's final three songs. He performed solo on "Our Love is Here to Stay" (dedicating it to his wife) and a tour-de-force romp through Ravel's "Bolero." 
Neuenschwander and Alexander joined him for the finale, Luis Bonfa's bossa nova "Manhã de Carnaval," better known as the theme from the movie "Black Orpheus."
Neuenschwander, Coryell, Alexander

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Newport state of mind


Here it is mid-January, and they've already got us thinking about - and planning for - this summer’s Newport Jazz Festival. The 2015 edition will run July 31-August 2 at Fort Adams State Park on picturesque Newport Harbor and the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport Casino. The latter site was the festival’s original home in 1954. Now it hosts the fancier Friday night concert.

The Newport Casino event was the festival’s traditional Friday night opener, until last year when producer George Wein added the third day at Fort Adams to showcase more talent at the festival’s 60th anniversary celebration.
Jon Batiste

Some thoughts on 2015's diverse programming:
  • The New Orleans-Newport connection remains strong.  There will be four bands led by New Orleans musicians at this year’s edition. This year’s contingent: pianist Jon Batiste & Stay Human, drummer Herlin Riley’s quintet, trumpeter Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and Dr. John & the Night Trippers. The good doctor had to postpone his musical gris gris visit last year due to a bout with the flu.
  • Batiste and trumpeter Chris Botti will be featured Friday night at the Casino, a concert that is considered a must for Newport’s “scenemakers.”
  • One-third of the bands booked this year are making their Newport debuts, though some of those leaders have appeared at Newport in the past as sidemen in other groups. They include bluesman Lucky Peterson, saxophonist Matana Roberts, Jose James, trumpeter Tom Harrell’s longstanding quintet, saxophonist Scott Robinson’s Doctette, and the band Kneebody. Trumpeter-singer Bria Skonberg performed last year with Vince Giordano’s trad band The Nighthawks. This year, she’s back leading her own quintet.
  • The performer age span is quite amazing. It ranges from 88-year-old alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson (leading his quartet on Sunday) to 11-year-old Indonesian piano prodigy Joey Alexander (on Saturday).
  • Acts I’m most keen to hear: guitarist Pat Martino’s organ trio, Matana Roberts’ band Coin Coin, Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, singer Cassandra Wilson’s new Billie Holiday tribute, Conrad Herwig’s Latin Side of Horace Silver project, bassist Christian McBride's trio, and Harrell’s always-excellent band and music.
  • Another not to miss: a Sunday piano duet set by two Newport regulars: Michel Camilo and Hiromi Uehara. Each brings new meaning to the word “intense.” Together they should really be something.
No matter your specific jazz taste, there is lots to savor. Tickets are now on sale. More details at www.newportjazzfest.org.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jazz vibes player honors his masterful predecessors

The way vibes player Christian Tamburr sees it, he honors his musical forebears every time he picks up his mallets. He paid homage Monday night, January 12, principally to Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson as part of the Charlotte County Jazz Society's Artist Series in Port Charlotte FL.

Christian Tamburr
"The music I play is influenced by all of these great players," Tamburr said, also noting Red Norvo, Cal Tjader and Gary Burton. 

It indeed is a small, distinct fraternity. The number of jazz saxophonists and trumpeters, for example, number in the thousands. But there are fewer than a hundred well-known jazz players, past and present, whose principal instruments are the vibes or their woody stepbrother, the marimbas.

Danny Gottlieb
Tamburr, a  native of Florida's Space Coast who now is based in northern California, had strong, inventive support from his rhythm section. He has worked with Billy Thornton (bass) and Scott Giddins (piano) since the three were music students at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville back in the late 1900s and early 2000s. The powerfully swinging drummer Danny Gottlieb, who teaches at UNF, was a special guest. Tamburr has known him for years, but this was actually the first formal gig where they worked together.

In addition to an array of jazz standards and one original, "It Rained Again Tonight," Tamburr treated the audience of about 300 to a handful of tunes written by or associated with the masters. They included "Flyin' Home" and "Cherokee" (Hampton),"Head Start" (Hutcherson) and "Bags' Groove" (Jackson).

Thornton, Tamburr
Tamburr is a treat to watch and hear, as his mallets dance across the vibes and notes are accentuated with his body English. All in service to the music.

Other highlights: the band's tango-like take on "You Don't Know What Love Is," his wonderful duet with Thornton on "All the Things You Are," and his solo version of "In a Sentimental Mood." On the latter tune, Tamburr played the vibes softly with his hands rather than mallets.

 This was his second appearance at the CCJS series at the Charlotte Cultural Center Theater. His local debut was in November 2012.
Giddins, Tamburr, Thornton, Gottlieb

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Bit more Ellington jazz matinee

It's unusual when a band becomes its own warmup act, but that's what happened when multi-instrumentalist Greg Nielsen's quintet performed in the South County Jazz Club's matinee series at the Venice FL At Center.

Nielsen's band - with the leader on trombone, flugelhorn and soprano sax, Tom Ellison on reeds, Eddie Tobin on piano, Mark Neuenschwander on bass and David Pruyn on drums - featured a few gems during the opening set, including saxophonist Dona Menza's lovely bossa nova "Faviana." 
Bit Risner

For the second set, which Nielsen called "The Ellington Hour," audience members could be forgiven if they forgot what great music had already transpired. Nielsen's special guest for the next hour-plus was trumpeter Bit Risner. Nielsen, a longtime music educator, has been a mentor to her since Risner was 9. She was a mainstay in Sarasota's globetrotting youth band, Jazz Juvenocracy. Now she's 18 and will follow the other Jazz Juvie alumni to college in the fall.

Risner has the poise and polish of a pro, solid trumpet chops and soulful vocals.

Nielsen, Risner, Ellison

For the final set, the band played vintage tunes from the Duke Ellington Songbook that Nielsen had arranged for Jazz Juvenocracy. They included "Cotton Club Stomp," "Black and Tan Fantasy," "Perdido," "St. Louis Toodle-O," "Take the A Train," the blues "Rocks in My Bed" (one of Bit's two vocal features), "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart," and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain't Got That Swing)."


"Concerto for Cootie," written for Ellington trumpeter Cootie Williams, was a splendid spotlight piece for Risner. Similarly "Isfahan," a Johnny Hodges feature from Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's "Far East Suite," showcased Ellison's alto sax mastery. The sextet closed the afternoon with Duke's most requested composition, "Mood Indigo."

The Nielsen/Risner collaboration drew a record crowd of more than 155 to the venue. Supplemental seating spilled out into two hallways, and there were also a few standing wherever they could find a spot. What a splendid way to open the 2015 portion of the club's concert season.
Tobin, Nielsen, Risner, Ellison, Neuenschwander, Pruyn

Monday, January 5, 2015

Looking back at jazz in 2014



Allaboutjazz.com has published my comprehensive review of jazz-related events and milestones from 2014. In a nutshell, it was a year noteworthy for its numbers.

Newport turned 60, Blue Note turned 75, International Jazz Day's third edition featured 900 events in more than 190 countries. The jazz world lost seven of its NEA Jazz Masters, and New Orleans trumpeter Lionel Ferbos died at 103. Sad but not unexpected, the jazz community again said goodbye to lot of players and industry figures.

I’ve been doing these compilations for several decades, originally for UPI, and for allaboutjazz since 2004. It is always interesting to sift back through the prior 12 months from years that seem to fly by in a blur.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview


Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, in January and February.
Nicki Parrott



  • Wednesday, January 7 – Singer Kevin Mahogany guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra. Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, January 12 – Back by popular demand after a sizzling performance two seasons ago, vibraphonist Christian Tamburr’s quartet at the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s 2014-15 Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County. 7 p.m 
  • Friday, January 16 – Eddie Metz-Nicki Parrott-Rosanno Sportiello trio, Jazz Club of Sarasota, Riverview High School Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 17 – Guitarist Larry Coryell trio, South County Jazz Club concert series, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 8 p.m. 
    Pat Martino
  • Wednesday, February 4 – Guitarist Pat Martino is the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra’s special guest. Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, February 9, 2015 – Twin saxophonists Peter and Will Anderson are featured with their quintet in the Charlotte County Jazz Society‘s Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County. 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, February 10  Singer-pianist Harry Connick Jr., Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, 8 p.m.
  •  Wednesday, February 11 – Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 21 – 10th annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival, Laishley Park, Punta Gorda, 1-6 pm. Saxophonist Mindi Abair (back for her seventh consecutive year), guitarist Nick Colionne and saxophonist Dave Koz are featured at this smooth jazz event. The mainstream jazz portion of the weekend is at Sunday brunch at the Isles Yacht Club. The latter will feature drummer-singer Patricia Dean, trombonist Herb Bruce, pianist Jeff Phillips, bassist and guitarist Dave Trefethen, and drummer-vibraphonist Joe Bilardo. All will mix it up in varied combinations between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 25 – Singer Rene Marie. Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 28 – Singer Giacomo Gates, South County Jazz Club concert series, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 8 p.m.


    Several local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, The Orange House in Punta Gorda, The Roadhouse in Ft. Myers, and Alto in Naples) offer jazz steadily. A variety of matinee concerts sponsored all season by the Jazz Club of Sarasota and the South County Jazz Club also keep things swinging for jazz lovers.