Monday, November 20, 2017

Bud Leeds goes Bob-Bob-Bobbying along

Clarinetist Bud Leeds was in fine company - and good spirits - for the South County Jazz Club's first concert of the 2017-2018 season on Monday, November 20.

Bud Leeds
His quartet included multi-instrumentalist Bob MacInnis, Bob Leary on banjo, rhythm guitar and occasional vocals, and piano marvel Bobby van Deusen. (Leeds could have named the band Three Bobs and a Bud.

Together, they delved deeply into ragtime, Louis Armstrong fare and other classic jazz staples.The free-and-easy repertoire included "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," cornetist Wild Bill Davison's theme song "I Never New," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?," "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee," Bix Beiderbecke's "Singin' the Blues," Scott Joplin's "Rose Leaf Blues," and "Back Home in Indiana," among others.

Bobby van Deusen
Van Deusen, a master of the ragtime and stride piano styles, reached a few decades ahead from his usual repertoire to include "That's All, and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (by request), along with a stunning solo take on the ballad "Laura." The Pensacola resident was a fixture in New Orleans for many years, working with Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, The Dukes of Dixieland and on the Delta Queen riverboat. Leary worked with him on that latter gig.

Bud Leeds, Bob MacInnis
MacInnis was featured primarily on cornet but he also doubled with Leeds on clarinet on several tunes. The clear concert highlight was their twin-clarinet take on a medley that segued from "My Mother's Eyes" to the poignant Sidney Bechet classic "Si Tu Vois Ma Mere" (If You See My Mother).

Bob Leary
Leary's fine vocal takes on "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" were a stark contrast with the corny tunes that he seems to sneak into all his performances, whether or not he's leading the band.

This time Leary included 1947's "Huggin' and Chalkin'" and his exaggerated falsetto take on The Ink Spots pop hit "I Don't Need to Set the World on Fire." They lose their humorous impact the second or third time you've heard him. For me, this was number four.

The matinee concert was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice. 
Van Deusen, Leary, Leeds, MacInnis

Looking ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through January.
  • Saturday, November 25 – Guitarists John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring’s Meeting of the Spirits tour, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 29 – 20th anniversary tour of Dave Koz Christmas, teaming the alto saxophonist with fellow smoothies David Benoit, Rick Braun, Peter White and Selina Albright. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 2 –the Dan Heck Blues and Truth Sextet, featuring trumpeter Dan Miller, performs the Music of Charles Mingus and Oliver Nelson. CAPA at the Wang Center, Naples. 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday, December 4 – Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Orchestra holiday concert featuring the finest players from Miami, Orlando, Tampa and SW Florida, North Naples United Methodist Church. 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 9 – Trumpeter Bobby Shew is featured with The Naples Philharmonic Youth Jazz Orchestra. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 4 p.m. free.
  • Monday, December 11 – Bebop saxophonist Greg Abate’s quartet, Charlotte County Jazz Society concert series, William H Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County, Port Charlotte, 7 p.m.
    Greg Abate
  • Wednesday, December 13 – Singer Carmen Bradford guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s concert series at Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, December 15 – Guitarist Nate Najar's Jazz Holiday with Chuck Redd, Jeff Rupert, John Lamb, Mark Feinman and James Suggs. A South County Jazz Club concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota. 8 p.m.  
Nicki Parrott
  • Monday, January 8 – Joe Delaney and Friends in concert at the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s Latin Jazz Night. William H Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County, Port Charlotte, 7 p.m.
  • Wed, January 10 – Ramsey Lewis & John Pizzarelli in concert with their Straighten Up and Fly Right tribute to Nat King Cole. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 24 – Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon with the Ed Metz-Rossano Sportiello-Nicki Parrott trio. A South County Jazz Club-Venice Institute for the Performing Arts concert. Venice Performing Arts Center. 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 27 – Singer Kenny Washington is featured with the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Quintet, Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. Fort Myers, 8 p.m.
Several local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, 88 Keys Florida and The Turtle Club in Punta Gorda, Fandango in Sarasota, The Roadhouse and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Ft. Myers, and Slate’s in Cape Coral, 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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tapping into the lingering love for swing jazz

Johnny Varro played with the elder statesmen of classic swing jazz  in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, working with Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, Roy Eldridge and Pee Wee Russell to name but a few. Now at 87, he is one of the elder statesmen.

Johnny Varro
Pianist Varro returned to Port Charlotte with the Florida edition of his Swing Seven band on Monday, November 13. It was the band’s third appearance in five years in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series.

The band included saxophonists Terry Myers (alto and clarinet) and Rodney Rojas (tenor), trumpeter Charlie Bertini, trombonist Jeff Lego, bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Eddie Metz Jr. The roster was identical to Varro’s October 2012 visit. A couple of subs were aboard in the band’s November 2014 concert.
Rodney Rojas

Varro is the master of genteel swing, both as a player and arranger of classic jazz standards. This time, he also shared two originals, the lovely ballad “Afterglow” and “Hag’s Blues,” an intricate and spirited piece that he wrote in honor of Bob Haggart. Neuenschwander's bass artistry was featured on this tip-of-the-hat to the bassist, arranger and composer who rose to prominence as a member of Bob Crosby’s Bobcats.
Mark Neuenschwander

The evening’s repertoire leaned heavily on material from the 1930s Duke Ellington Orchestra and the 1940s and ‘50s Count Basie band book. The Ellington-related material included Duke’s “Just Squeeze Me,” “Ring Dem Bells,” “Black and Tan Fantasy” and “Stompy Jones,” which he wrote as a feature for alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, plus Hodges’ own “You Need to Rock.” The Basie-associated material included Benny Moten’s “Moten Swing,” rhythm guitarist Freddie Green’s “Corner Pocket” and Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings.”
Charlie Bertini

Varro’s arrangements feature crisp yet intricate horn lines. He is one of the most generous bandleaders around when it comes to giving sidemen a lot of space to explore the music. That resulted in more than a few stunning solos, including a couple by Bertini with ultra-high notes that turned his face beet red.

The Brooklyn native’s easy-going banter served him well when memory failed as he introduced a couple of song titles or mixed up some composers during the generous 19-song program. There were more than a few chuckles when he introduced the 1926 Artie Shaw hit “Cross Your Heart” as “Cross My Heart” and said it was written by “somebody.” (Lewis Gensler wrote it). In another senior moment, mixing up his Bennys, the pianist attributed “Pom Pom” to trombonist Benny Morton. It was composed by Benny Carter.
Eddie Metz Jr.

Concert highlights included Myers’ alto sax feature on “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” Rojas’ biting and intense playing on “Stompy Jones,” Lego on trombonist Vic Dickenson’s “Constantly” and Metz’s drum feature on “It’s a Wonderful World.” Everyone in the band was featured in Varro’s extended exploration of Duke’s exotic “Black and Tan Fantasy.”

A two-saxophone feature, reminiscent of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, had Myers and Rojas going head-to-head on Cohn’s “Brandy and Beer.” Their shared intensity, as they handed the melody back-and-forth and doubled at times, made this one a rousing concert closer.

About 250 people turned out for this event at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s William H Wakeman III Theater.
Varro, Lego, Bertini, Neuenschwander, Myers, Rojas, Metz

Thursday, October 19, 2017

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by The Black Butterflies, Miles Donahue, Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge, and Matt Wilson….

The Black Butterflies, Luisa (self-produced) 
This third recording by The Black Butterflies, an eclectic, Latin-tinged group led by alto saxophonist Mercedes Figueras, is a gem - and a bit historic to boot. Figueras, a native of Argentina, was heavily influenced by the musicality of fellow countryman Gato Barbieri. Her sound shares a lot of the same brawn and take-no-prisoners firepower that were a hallmark of Barbieri’s distinctive tenor work over his long career.

Barbieri was a special guest on three tracks here: Figueras’ homage “Gato’s Hat” and “Brother Nacho, Sister Lola,” as well as Ramon Sixto Rios’ “Merceditas.” It turned out to be Barbieri’s last recording project prior to his April 2016 passing. Their intertwined tenor/alto saxophone duels are a thing of wonder, particularly on the session highlight, “Brother Nacho, Sister Lola.” The percussion-rich band here gives Figueras and Barbieri quite an exotic cushion with both samba and tango influences. Here’s another bit of history. The octet includes vibes player Karl Berger. He and Gato were part of the Don Cherry Quartet in 1965-66.

Miles Donahue, The Bug (Whaling City Sound) 
New England jazzman Miles Donahue is a musical force of nature. He composes, he teaches, and he is equally adept at playing trumpet and saxophone. His recordings are few and far between, so it is good to relish them when they do arrive. Such is the case with The Bug, which teams Donahue with saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi (a long-time collaborator), guitarist Mike Stern, pianist Tim Ray, bassist Tamir Schmerling, and drummers Ralph Peterson and Larry Finn, who split the timekeeping role. All nine tracks are Donohue originals.

Favorites: “The Bug,” “All Grown Up,” “Hawthorne Hideaway,” “Leaving Home” and “Clifford.” The title track showcases Donohue’s trumpet work and Stern’s distinctive, searing guitar. Donohue sits out to relish the interpretations featuring Bergonzi on “All Grown Up” and Ray on the solo piano track “Leaving Home.” Donahue (on alto sax), Ray and Stern dig deep into “Hawthorne Hideaway” and the boogaloo-driven “Swamp House.” Donahue was inspired by Bill Evans when he wrote the opening track, “Bill,” and the closer, “”In Three.” Donahue and Bergonzi are featured, on flugelhorn on tenor respectively, on the Clifford Brown tribute, as Donahue tips his cap to another of his mighty influences. This is a gem.

Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge, Whispers on the Wind (MAMA)
This is the sixth recording by Chuck Owen’s Central Florida-based band, The Jazz Surge. The project, in essence, is a seven-part tone poem inspired by various aspects of the wide-open spaces of America’s heartland, where Owen grew up. The composer is a native of Omaha NE. The 19-member band is augmented for this recording by trumpeter Randy Brecker, harmonica player Grégoire Maret and violinist Sara Caswell.

Whispers on the Wind is inspired by cowboys, gunslingers, breathtaking vistas and the writings of Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry. Aural imageries abound through each piece. The finest gems are “Into the Blue,” which features intense overlapping solos by Brecker and guitarist LaRue Nickelson, and Maret’s extensive spotlight on “Sentinel Rock,” a tribute to the Bryce Canyon landmark that toppled last year. The latter track also features alto saxophonist Valerie Gillespie. To add more of the folk/roots flavor to the project, Owen played accordion and hammered dulcimer on various tracks.

Matt Wilson, Honey and Salt (Palmetto)
Drummer Matt Wilson’s newest project was without peer this year in concept and execution. Wilson wrote 18 tunes, each inspired by the works of Carl Sandburg, the “poet of the people” who died 50 years ago. Sandburg long has been an influence on Wilson, and both were born one town away from each other in rural Illinois. Nine of the pieces include guest readers who add Sandburg’s words. They include jazz musicians Christian McBride, Wilson, John Scofield, Jeff Lederer, Bill Frisell, Rufus Reid, Joe Lovano and Carla Bley. Sandburg’s own narration is featured on his poem “Fog.” Favorites include Scofield’s take on the whimsical “We Must Be Polite” and Lederer’s reading of “Prairie Barn.” That poem was a most-fitting inclusion. Sandburg wrote the poem about a barn that was owned by a relative of Wilson. The versatile drummer’s fine band included singer-guitarist Dawn Thomson, cornetist Ron Miles, reed player Lederer and bassist Martin Wind.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

UNESCO sets the stage for International Jazz Day in 2018, 2019

Sometimes you know, sometimes you don't - until the last minute. That's been the case with International Jazz Day celebrations. But apparently it's no longer going to be kept close to the vest.

Since the global program was created in 2011, major events were held in Paris, New Orleans and UN headquarters in New York City in 2012. Global Host Cities for the all-star concert and major celebrations included Istanbul in 2013, Osaka in 2014 and Paris in 2015, with at least a few months' advance notice.

As the 2015 Paris all-star concert concluded,  jazz pianist UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock announced from the stage that 2016's concert would be held at the White House, with Washington DC serving as the Global Host City.

In contrast, this year's locale wasn't revealed until three weeks before the April 30 concert took place - in Havana, Cuba.

UNESCO is giving lots of lead time for at least the next two years - and apparently will do so well into the future. It announced this week that St. Petersburg, Russia, will be the Global Host City in 2018. Sydney, Australia, is on tap for 2019. Both were selected by an advisory committee at the culmination of a new nominating process.

International Jazz Day was created to recognize the power if jazz to promote peace, intercultural dialogue and international cooperation. It has grown to include broadcast, concert, community and educational events in more than 190 countries. The International Space Station has also gotten involved.

The high-profile program is co-produced by UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Swinging jazz in two different contexts

The Charlotte County Jazz Society opened its 2017-18 concert season on Monday, October 9 with a robust evening featuring two Sarasota-based bands that covered a lot of musical territory in different contexts.

Trombonist Dick Hamilton's sextet and pianist Mike Markaverich's trio performed an hour apiece - and 10 songs apiece as it turned out - at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's newly renamed William H. Wakeman III Theater. The early season event drew a crowd estimated at more than 225 attendees.

Dick Hamilton
Hamilton's main instrument is trombone but one could argue that his main instruments are pen and paper. His peerless skill as an arranger dominated the opening set, as the band dug deep into his complex charts.

Hamilton spent about 45 years as a studio musician and arranger in Los Angeles before returning to Florida four years ago. He now writes and arranges principally for his swinging sextet, which includes Jim Martin on trumpet and flugelhorn, Tony Swain on alto and tenor sax, pianist Matt Bokulic, bassist John DeWitt and drummer Johnny Moore.

His arrangements feature crisp unison horn lines as well as unexpected moments where the other horns add complementing or contrasting textures behind the soloist. The material included Hamilton's arrangements of jazz and Great American Songbook standards plus two originals. Those latter tunes were things he wrote to the chord changes of classic tunes. "Dive/Jump" was based on Irving Berlin's "How Deep is the Ocean (How High is the Sky)" and "Getting Sentimental All Over You" was based on Ned Washington's "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You."

On an ultra-slow version of "Blue Monk," all three horns riffed beautifully behind Bokulic's piano solo on this Thelonious Monk classic. Moore's mallet-work set the exotic tone for Hamilton's arrangement of "Delilah's Theme" from the 1949 movie "Samson and Delilah." Other material included Miles Davis's "Walkin," "Someday My Prince Will Come," "Prelude to a Kiss," "Love for Sale," "Just Squeeze Me" and the newst chart he'd written for the band, "Falling in Love With Love."

Bokulic, Hamilton, Martin, DeWitt, Swain, Moore

Markaverich, Mopsick, Moore
New Hampshire native Markaverich, blind since birth, moved to Florida 29 years ago after playing jazz piano on Cape Cod for a decade. He quickly became a mainstay on the Sarasota jazz scene.

In the evening's closing set, his music covered a wide stylistic range -  jazz classics, few standards from the Great American Songbook, and a few things you don't often hear in a mainstream jazz context. 

Right from the opening tune, "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm," it was clear that the set would be all about musical conversation between Markaverich, bassist Don Mopsick and drummer Johnny Moore. Throughout the evening, Markaverich reacted with glee to the other players' solos.
Mike Markaverich

The trio performed two Oscar Pettiford tunes, "Tricotism" and "Laverne Walk," as well as trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's chestnut "Up Jumped Spring" and Horace SIlver's "Nica's Dream." 

Makaverich featured pleasant lyric and scat vocals on the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross classic "Centerpiece," "What is This Thing Called Love?" and "The Bare Necessities" from the Disney film "The Jungle Book." He played Rodger's and Hart's "Lover" in 5/4 time rather than the standard 4/4 rhythm, and added some ragtime twists along the way. 

Johnny Moore
The trio closed the evening with an instrumental take on Michael Franks' "Popsicle Toes." This mid-1970s jazz-pop hit isn't heard often without its clever, saucy lyrics, This version relished its beautiful jazz underpinning, from which the pianist revealed glimmering new facets.

The evening's big bonus: a double helping of Johnny Moore's drumming. You'll never hear flash or bombast from this man. His playing is all about finesse, subtlety and unexpected accents. Every note has a purpose.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The home of the red piano

Henry Ford once told his car-makers back in the early 20th century that they could paint his Fords any color - as long as it was black. Just like Ford's vintage Model T's back in the day, pianos are black more often than not.

Once in a while, you may find a white one, or some in their natural wood brown tones. But you really have to search to find an acoustic grand that's red.

The red piano is the visual and aural centerpiece at 88 Keys Florida, where it is a stark contrast to the primarily gray-and-black motif of this modern-looking piano bar and restaurant at the Wyvern Hotel in Punta Gorda FL. 88 Keys features jazz four nights a week. I finally got a chance to visit on Friday and found it quite different than many of the other restaurant gigs in southwest Florida.

The sleek and modern designer look is quite unusual. The room holds less than 30 people, which is not ideal, but the featured bands tend to draw regulars who are big fans. Singer-pianist Danny Sinoff's trio with drummer Patricia Dean and bassist Scott Smith performs on Thursdays and Fridays from 7-10 p.m. The Wednesday and Saturday performers vary from week to week.
Dean, Smith, Sinoff

Sinoff is always a treat. He digs mightily into the Great American Songbook, particularly Sinatra covers. While he is a fine singer, and has a strong following in that regard, I find his piano solos even more enjoyable as he takes familiar material to unexpected places. 

If you haven't heard him - or heard him lately, check him out at 88 Keys Florida, La Fiorentina Cafe Italiano in Punta Gorda on Tuesdays or the Roadhouse Cafe in Fort Myers, where he performs Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

CDs of Note - Short Takes

This edition considers several new CDs with distinctive orchestral jazz focuses. They are projects by composer Mica Bethea, pianist-composer Alan Broadbent, trumpeter John Vanore, and two saxophonist-composers - Brian Landrus and Brian McCarthy.

The Mica Bethea Big Band, Stage ‘N Studio (self-produced)
Composer and arranger Mica Bethea is a fascinating story unto himself. Twelve years ago, he was a young music student at the University of North Florida. The multi-instrumentalist was driving back to school in Jacksonville, after visiting his parents in Daytona, when a big truck slammed into his car at 85 mph during a traffic slowdown. The accident left Bethea a quadriplegic. He put his life back together, returned to school three years later and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music. He may be unable to play anymore, but he has emerged as a very fine composer and arranger.

This is a two-disc album featuring Bethea’s big band. One disc was recorded in studio, one in concert at UNF. Both discs feature four originals from Bethea plus a mix of his arrangements of six tunes from the jazz canon. All are excellent, with the material written with each player in mind. Favorites include his originals “Frahm Out of Nowhere,” “Jonesin’ for Thad,” “Coal” and “Birth Rite,” and the band’s spirited take on “Hang Up Your Hang Ups,” which Herbie Hancock recorded with an expanded version of his Headhunters’ funk band. The Mica Bethea Big Band’s many standout soloists include pianist Joshua Bowlus, guitarist James Hogan, saxophonist Todd DelGiudice and singer Linda Cole. Check it out.

Alan Broadbent with the London Metropolitan Orchestra at Abbey Road, Developing Story (Eden River)
Pianist Alan Broadbent teamed up with the London Metropolitan Orchestra for this wide-ranging project, recorded at Abbey Road studios. His longtime trio-mates, bassist Harvie S and drummer Peter Erskine, were along for the musical ride. The session opens with Broadbent’s three-part suite, "Ðeveloping Story.” 

Most fascinating are his intricate orchestrations on four jazz classics: Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now,” John Coltrane’s “Naima,” and Miles Davis’s “Blue in Green” and “Milestones.” In each case, Broadbent found ways to celebrate and accentuate the rich nuances of these standards. He also does the same thing for two originals, “Lady in the Lake,” which he wrote for Quartet West, and “Children of Lima,” which he which he wrote in the early 1970s after a Peruvian earthquake. It was recorded in a 1975 collaboration by Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd and the Houston Symphony. Broadbent spent three years as pianist in Woody’s big band.

Brian Landrus Orchestra, Generations (BlueLand) 
Baritone saxophonist Brian Landrus used a wide range of musical genres as his inspirations in writing the material for his 25-piece all-star orchestra. He wrote all of the material to focus on each participating player’s sound and strengths. 

The piece de resistance is the opening segment – a four-section piece called “Jeru Concerto.” It was inspired by Landrus’ son Jeru, whose namesake was the nickname of baritone saxophonist Gerry Mullgan. Jeru was not yet born when Landrus started writing the piece. The evocative “Orchids” features harpist Brandee Younger and vibes player Joe Locke. This ambitious project is a contemporary slant on the grand big band tradition.

Brian McCarthy, The Better Angels of Our Nature (Truth Revolution Recording Collective)
The late Phil Woods once had an octet (five horns plus rhythm section) that he called the Little Big Band, which offered a lot of the same firepower and nuance of a much larger ensemble. Brian McCarthy took much the same approach here with his nine-piece band. While not a big band in actuality, it has the musical depth and scope of one. This project has a very different – and very specific - thematic focus. Civil War history buff McCarthy crafted fresh, extended arrangements for Union and Confederate folk songs from that era, and added two originals written to reflect the same spirit and style. Each is a gem in its own way.

The title track, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” is a musical interpretation of Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address. “Shiloh” is an aching ballad that reflects on the first battle of the Civil War that saw large-scale death and suffering, and features McCarthy on soprano sax. The other players on this project include saxophonists Andrew Gutauskas, Stantawn Kendrick and Daniel Ian Smith, trombonist Cameron MacManus, trumpeter Bill Mobley, pianist Justin Kauflin, bassist Matt Aronoff and drummer Zach Harmon. This is terrific from concept to delivery.

John Vanore, Stolen Moments (Acoustical Concepts)
Philadelphia-based trumpeter John Vanore assembled this all-star ensemble to celebrate Oliver Nelson's musical legacy. This year would have been the 85th birthday of Nelson, who passed away in 1975. Featuring a 14-piece band augmented by percussion on one Latin track, this is Nelson’s music as reimagined and arranged by Vanore. 

The CD includes six Nelson originals, “Blues and the Abstract Truth,” “El Gato” (written to honor Gato Barbieri), “I Hope in Time a Change Will Come” (featuring saxophonist Steve Nelson),“Reuben’s Rondo,” “Self-Help is Needed” and “Stolen Moments.” Vanore’s band  also updates three of the standards that Nelson arranged and recorded - “A Taste of Honey,” “Greensleeves” and “St. Louis Blues.” This was a long-overdue way to spotlight Oliver Nelson’s important contributions to jazz – and freshen the material rather than merely do a repertory stroll through his charts.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Looking ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

The snowbirds will start trickling back this fall, which means it’s almost concert season again. Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through November. (I'll freshen this every six weeks or so, right through spring.)

  • Friday, September 8 – Singer Tony Bennett at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Saraasota. 8 p.m. (Postponed until a date TBD in 2018 because of Hurricane Irma.)
  • Monday, October 9 – The Charlotte County Jazz Society opens its 2017-18 concert season with a double cocert featuring the Dick Hamilton Sextet and the Mike Markaverich Trio. Cultural Center Theater, Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 19 to Sunday, October 22 Clearwater Jazz Holiday. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Postmodern Jukebox are the two closest things to jazz among the seven headliners. Jazz acts include Jon Cleary, Jason Miles with the Music of Weather Report, Theo Croker, Shaun Martin, Mino Cinelu and Gerald Veasley. Otherwise lots of blues, indie rock and vintage Motown. Coachman Park.
    Russell Malone
  • Wednesday, October 25 – Guitarist Russell Malone is special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s season opener at Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, November 12 – A concert celebrating the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, featuring trumpeter Dan Miller, violinist Glenn Basham and  11-year-old piano sensation Brandon Goldberg. East Naples United Methodist Church.  3 p.m.
  • Monday, November 13 – Pianist Johnny Varro’s Swing Seven in concert. The Charlotte County Jazz Society, Cultural Center Theater, Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 15 – Tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart is special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s monthly performance at Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, November 17 to Sunday, November 19 Suncoast Jazz Classic at Clearwater Beach. The wide-ranging lineup includes the Bill Allred-Allen Vaché Florida All Stars, Dave Bennett, Danny Sinoff, and the West Coast trad jazz band High Sierra. 
  • Saturday, November 25 – Guitarists John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring’s Meeting of the Spirits tour, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. 8 p.m. 
  • Wednesday, November 29 – 20th anniversary tour of Dave Koz Christmas, teaming the alto saxophonist with fellow smoothies David Benoit, Rick Braun, Peter White and Selina Albright. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. 7:30 p.m.
Johnny Varro
Several local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, 88 Keys Florida and The Turtle Club in Punta Gorda, Fandango in Sarasota, The Roadhouse and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Ft. Myers, and The Side Door Jazz Club at Slate’s in Cape Coral, offer jazz steadily). A variety of Friday matinee concerts sponsored all season by the Jazz Club of Sarasota and the South County Jazz Club also keep things swinging for jazz lovers.