Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jazz's creme de la creme, 2014-style

Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Newport 2013
The Jazz Journalists Association's 18th annual Jazz Awards winners list is headlined by pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter.

Hancock is being honored for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz. In addition to being a busy composer and performer, he's the driving force behind UNESCO's International Jazz Day, chairs the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and gave this year's six-part prestigious Norton Lectures series at Harvard.
Shorter was named Musician of the Year and his 2013 recording, Without A Net (Blue Note) was voted Record of the Year. 

Cecile McLorin Salvant was named Up and Coming Artist of the Year and Female Singer of the Year. Here is a link to the winners in all 32 categories of musical excellence.

Award winners in the JJA's Journalism and Media categories will be announced June 11 at the annual JJA Jazz Awards party in the Big Apple.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A swinging evening for jazz clarinet and more

Allan Vaché
Clarinetist Allan Vaché's mainstream jazz quintet closed out the Charlotte County Jazz Society's 2013-14 concert series Monday night at the Charlotte County Cultural Center with a swinging evening of Tin Pan Alley and jazz standards.

The repertoire ranged from Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Bob Haggart to the Benny Goodman songbook, with one brief foray to Brazil for Antonio Carlos Jobim's lovely bossa nova "Look to the Sky."

Vaché's band included Jeff Phillips on piano, Charlie Silva on bass, Eddie Metz Jr. on drums, and Bob Leary on guitar, banjo and, in two instances, nonsense-song vocals. Vaché was the gracious host, giving each band member plenty of time to solo. The rhythm section also got its own feature in the middle of the second set with a splendid version of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" that showcased Phillips' keyboard mastery.

The versatile clarinetist has a special affinity for the artistry of Benny Goodman. The two sets included five Goodman-associated tunes, and Vaché shared a funny story about the quirky bandleader as he introduced each of them. The Goodman material included "Stompin' at the Savoy," "Body and Soul," "Avalon," "Seven Come Eleven" (written by Goodman and guitarist Charlie Christian) and "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise."

"The World is Waiting for the Sunrise" was the concert's closing number, and was an appropriate finishing touch. It included a drum solo tour de force from Metz, whose technique and mastery make jaws drop at every concert.
Phillips, Vaché, Leary, Silva, Metz

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hip jazz for hip listeners

Singer Giacomo Gates' wide-ranging musicality, humor and swing were on full display Saturday night at JD’s Bistro & Grille as he opened the Port Charlotte FL venue’s Jazz Masters series of special jazz events.

Giacomo Gates
Gates fit the bill perfectly with his approach to jazz, including his instrument-like scatting and use of vocalese. The latter technique, popularized by Eddie Jefferson, Jon Hendricks and Oscar Brown Jr., puts lyrics to classic instrumental jazz solos that enable a singer like Gates to present a jazz standard with new dimensions.

Standout moments among the evening’s two-dozen songs:

  • Gates’ jazz take on “No, Not Much,” a 1950s pop hit for the Canadian vocal quartet The Four Lads, in this case with his voice also taking a robust trombone solo.
  • The hippest version of “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66” you’re likely to hear anywhere. His introductory segment put the song in context - and he delivered the lyrics with a speed befitting its era. Most singers tend to rush through this one – driving from Chicago to L.A. in a blur without savoring the landscape. Not Gates. (Later in the evening, he sang a clever but lesser-known Bobby Troup tune, “Hungry Man.”)
  • His melding of Irving Berlin’s standard “Blue Skies” with Thelonious Monk’s derivative “In Walked Bud,” the lyrics for the latter compliments of Jon Hendricks.
  • A take on Oliver Nelson’s classic jazz composition “Stolen Moments,” with the lyrics written by Gates.
  • Paying homage to his predecessors in the vocalese tradition, Gates included the first jazz vocalese tune ever recorded. “Moody’s Mood For Love” came to life when Eddie Jefferson wrote lyrics for James Moody’s saxophone solo to “I’m in the Mood for Love. It was first recorded by King Pleasure in 1954.
  • A take on “But Not For Me” that included longtime Chet Baker drummer Artt Frank’s lyrics written to Baker’s scat solo on the ballad.
  • Gates’ own lyrics to Paul Desmond’s alto sax solo on the Desmond-penned Dave Brubeck Quartet hit “Take Five.”
His band, featuring Mac Chrupcala on piano, Mark Neuenschwander on bass and Patricia Dean on drums, was in fine form all night, anticipating every one of the singer’s twists and turns, and adding much to the talented spirit of the two-show evening. Dean joined Gates on vocals on two tracks – one each show – “All of Me” and “”Bye Bye Blackbird.” The latter featured overlapping vocals by the pair, as well as a vocalized bass solo from Gates. On other tunes, Gates also emulated the drums and a harsh wind to great effect, often trading four-bar phrases with his band mates.
The Connecticut-based singer found an instant rapport with his Port Charlotte audience. He has been plying his jazz vocal craft since the early 1990s (and won the Rising Star Male Vocalist category in DownBeat’s 2012 Critics Poll). This former heavy-construction worker spent a dozen years working in Alaska, three of them helping build the Alaskan Pipeline. “I’m still trying to thaw out,” he mused.

JD’s new Jazz Masters series is designed to bring select, formidable talents from outside the region to the its audience base a few times a year, expanding beyond the local talents the venue presents five nights a week. The standing ovations that Gates & Co. received at the end of each show showed that there’s an appreciation for this strategy.

Mac Chrupcala, Giacomo Gates, Mark Neuenschwander, Patricia Dean

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The art of the jazz duo - playing alone together

Howard Alden
Guitarist Howard Alden and pianist Lenore Raphael blended their considerable talents Friday night in a South County Jazz Club concert that concluded its 2013-14 season segment at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Sarasota.

The New York-based players dug deeply into Great American Songbook standards, and a gritty take on Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia On My Mind," before concluding their 90-minute performance with a Raphael original. The latter was her Oscar Peterson tribute, "Blues for O.P."

Lenore Raphael

The evening underscored the players musical simpatico, their counterpoint in supporting each other's solos, and Alden's mastery of the seven-string guitar. Their take on "Alone Together" had several Bach-ish moments as both players blended their classical chops into the jazz piece without missing a beat.

The pair conclude their four-city Florida swing next Wednesday (April 9) when the Gold Coast Jazz Society presents a Tribute to Oscar Peterson concert at the Broward Center for the Arts in Fort Lauderdale. They will have company on stage that evening with bassist Chuck Bergeron and drummer Roger King Jr.
Lenore Raphael and Howard Alden

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

CDs of Note - Short Takes

This vocals edition takes a closer look at new CDs by Barb Jungr, Stacey Kent and Susanna Smith….

Barb Jungr, Hard Rain (Kristalyn)
At a time when far too many jazz singers seem addicted to the most tired tunes in the Great American Songbook, London-based Barb Jungr has settled on a very different range of material. She is in love with the often-political works of musical bards Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Hard Rain: The Songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen is a gem. Jungr and her band explore the delicious lyrics of six classic Dylan tunes and five more from his Canadian counterpart. With her own pacing and beautiful phrasing, Junger reveals the power of these most literary songs. The tracks include Cohen’s clever “Everybody Knows,” “Who By Fire,” “First We Take Manhattan,” “1000 Kisses Deep” and “Land of Plenty” and Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Hard Rain,” “Masters of War,” “It’s Alright Ma,” “Gotta Serve Somebody” and “Chimes of Freedom.” This is excellent.

Stacey Kent, The Changing Lights (Warner Bros.)
There is much to love about American-born, London-based singer Stacey Kent’s latest CD, her 11th in a career now stretching more than 20 years. The session was inspired by Brazilian music and features Kent singing in English, Portuguese and French on favorite bossa novas and other material, much of it crafted just for her. The foremost material, to my ears, involves three songs that were composed by her husband, the fine British saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, in collaboration with the very gifted British novelist and lyricist Kazuo Ishiguro, who Kent acknowledges write for her voice and sensibility. They are the title track, the witty “Oh Waiter, On Waiter” and the CD’s centerpiece: “The Morning We Crossed Europe in the Rain.” It should become a contemporary jazz standard for discerning singers and voices, much like the 2007 Tomlinson-Ishiguro collaboration “Breakfast on the Morning Tram.” They have wistful, timeless messages and heaps of quality.

Suzanna Smith, Halfway Between Heaven & Love (Ink Pen)
Oakland CA-based Suzanna Smith has a dandy vocal debut recording here, one that showcases her confident, smoky vocals, significant chops as a lyricist, and an excellent backing band. Her talent is evident right from the opening bars of this CD, where she penned lyrics to ride atop a clever mash-up of Tadd Dameron’s “Lady Bird” and Miles Davis’ “Half Nelson.” She and pianist Michael Coleman collaborated on seven fine originals. Standouts: “Paper Boat,” “Comet” and the clever “Monk’s Make Believe.” There are also four covers of jazz standards, my favorite being the band’s take on Michel Legrand’s “Summer Me, Winter Me.” The CD closes with a fresh take on saxophonist Dexter Gordon’s “Soy Califa” with lyrics by Smith, of course. This is a talent to keep an eye on. She’s off to a great start with this CD.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

A night of Valiant jazz

Valery Ponomarev
Russian-born, New York-based trumpeter Valery Ponomarev and Florida saxophonist Valerie Gillespie teamed their talents Friday for the first time, and loved every minute of it. The occasion was a Jazz Club of Sarasota evening concert at Holley Hall, which drew a small but enthusiastic audience.

Ponomarev was a member of drummer Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers for four years (1977-1981) and often referred to his prominent association with Blakey. "To this day, people find it hard to believe a Russian played in that band," he told the audience.

Ian Goodman, Valery Ponomarev, Valerie Gillespie
The evening featured several tunes heavily associated with Blakey's bop-centric band, including two by ex-Jazz Messenger Benny Golson: "Along Came Betty" and "Blues March." The band also took a lengthy exploration through Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" that took up nearly a third of the first set.

Ponomarev shared the spotlight all evening with his band mates, Gillespie on alto and tenor saxes (and vocals), Judi Glover on piano, John Lamb on bass and Ian Goodman on drums.

Gillespie had two vocal features, "My Funny Valentine" and "Lush Life." She dedicated "My Funny Valentine" to area concert producer Rick Gee, who booked the Ponomarev gig but died unexpectedly on March 1. Ex-Ellington bassist Lamb opened the number with a poignant bass solo.

The way they clicked, it was hard to fathom that Ponomarev had never met the other players until that afternoon. "What an incredible bunch of musicians," he said. Repeatedly. All night long.
Judi Glover, Valery Ponomarev, Valerie Gillespie, John Lamb

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Young jazz trumpet phenom steals the show

Pianist and singer Danny Sinoff is the resident jazz cat in the hat two nights a week at JD's Bistro & Grille in Port Charlotte, but Friday night he had to share the distinction and step back a bit from the spotlight. Thirteen-year-old trumpet phenom Geoff Gallante sat in with Sinoff's trio for two sets and showed the enthusiastic crowd - and his fellow musicians - that he is  the real deal.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

Giacomo Gates
Here’s a preview of some of the more interesting jazz events in the Sarasota to Naples territory from now through mid-June, as the concert season winds down. 
  • Monday, March 24 – Singer Carmen Bradford guests with The Naples Jazz Orchestra, Cambier Park, Naples. 7 p.m.
  • Friday, March 28 – From Russia With Love: Trumpeter Valery Ponomarev and saxophonist Valerie Gillespie. Jazz Club of Sarasota evening concert, Holley Hall, 709 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 5 – Guitarist Howard Alden and pianist Lenore Raphael, The South County Jazz Club’s concert series at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota. 8 p.m.
  • Friday, April 11 – Singer Giacomo Gates quartet, Jazz Club of Sarasota evening concert, Holley Hall, 709 North Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 7:30 p.m. Gates is also at JD’s Bistro and Grille, on Saturday, April 12, shows at 6 and 8:30 p.m. 1951 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, Call (941) 255-0994 for reservations.
  • Saturday, April 12 – NYC Saxophone Summit featuring tenorists Lew Del Gatto, Jeff Rupert and Jerry Weldon, as well as trumpeter Dan Miller. Footsteps to the Future benefit at Hodges University, Naples. 6 p.m.
  • Monday, April 14 – Clarinetist Allen Vaché’s quintet, Charlotte County Jazz Society’s Artists Series concert, Charlotte Cultural Center in Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 16 – Trombonist Conrad Herwig is special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra. Daniels Pavilion, Naples, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. 
  • Wednesday, May 21 – The Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra’s tribute to Charles Mingus features bassist Kevin Mauldin. Daniels Pavilion, Naples, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. 
  • Wednesday, June 11 – The Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra presents The Complete History of Jazz in 75 minutes. Daniels Pavilion, Naples, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. 
Allen Vaché
A few local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, The Orange House in Punta Gorda and The Roadhouse in Ft. Myers) offer jazz steadily, and there will be a variety of varied afternoon concerts sponsored all season by the Jazz Club of Sarasota and South County Jazz Club.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Happy jazz still going strong

Jim Cullum
The Jim Cullum Jazz Band drew nearly a full house at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Sarasota on Saturday night at a South County Jazz Club concert showing traditional jazz and the hunger for it are alive and well.

Cullum's father, a clarinetist, formed what originally was called the Happy Jazz Band in the early 1960s. The cornetist took it over in the 1970s after his father's death. The Cullum band is now in its 50th year and has been broadcasting its Riverwalk Jazz series on public radio for 25 years.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The art of the jazz trio

Dave Morgan, John Lamb, Mac Chrupcala
The fine art of the jazz trio at its best was on full display this afternoon at the Venice (FL) Art Center. Except when it was the fine art of the jazz quartet.

Pianist Mac Chrupcala, who is based in Newport RI most of the year but snowbirds in Southwest Florida, performed with a powerhouse trio, featuring John Lamb on bass and Dave Morgan on drums. He also brought a special guest who sat in at the end of the first set and most of the second set.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jazz that swings mightily

Lisa Kelly and JB Scott
Singer Lisa Kelly and trumpeter JB Scott's first appearance at the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert series tonight was a dandy, ensuring that the Jacksonville-based couple will be back sooner rather than later in the CCJS rotation.

Building the future for jazz, one student ticket at a time

George Wein
George Wein remembers an evening back in the early 1940s when, as a high school student, he got a chance to hear Duke Ellington live for the first time. It was at Roseland State Ballroom in Boston, and he was in high school. Wein says memories of that night likely planted the seed for his career as a jazz pianist, club owner and festival producer.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Guitar trio digs into jazz and blues

Andre Roy
Toronto-based guitarist Andre Roy, who winters in southwest Florida. closed out the Englewood Art Center portion of the South County Jazz Club's 2013-14 season this afternoon with a terrific trio concert.

The matinee performance marked first-time concert appearances by three contemporary players: Roy, bassist Billy Pillucere and drummer James Varnado. What a tight performance in their first gig together. It also was Roy's first U.S. concert appearance.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

International Jazz Day preview

The United Nations is truly putting the stamp on jazz, several dozen of them in fact, when the third annual International Jazz Day rolls around on Wednesday, April 30. UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz are sponsoring International Jazz Day, which will have Osaka, Japan as its host city for major, all-star events.

Coinciding with International Jazz Day, the United Nations Postal Administration will issue three mini-sheets of a dozen jazz-related postage stamps, a first-day-of-issue envelope and a souvenir card. The items were designed in a cohesive collage format by UNPA Art Director Sergio Baradat. Here’s a preview of those materials. The stamps will be issued in U.S. dollars, Swiss francs and Euros. For more information, visit

The U.S. denomination jazz sheet
The 2014 International Jazz Day celebration will begin in Osaka April 30 with a daylong series of jazz education programs, performances and community outreach. An outdoor evening concert at Osaka Castle Park will feature a wide array of jazz artists. They include pianists Toshiko Akiyoshi, John Beasley (concert musical director) and Kris Bowers; bassists James Genus, Marcus Miller and Esperanza Spalding; drummers Terri Lyne Carrington  and T.S. Monk; singers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roberta Gambarini, Lalah Hathaway and  Gregory Porter; saxophonists Kenny Garrett, Wayne Shorter and Lew Tabackin; trombonist Steve Turre; trumpeters Theo Croker, Roy Hargrove, Terumasa Hino and Claudio Roditi; guitarists Earl Klugh and John Scofield; and percussionists Sheila E. and her dad, Pete Escovedo.

The Osaka concert will be streamed live worldwide via the UNESCO, U.S. Department of State and Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz websites. For more information about International Jazz Day and to register local April 30 jazz events on the official website, visit Jazzday or UNESCO/Jazzday.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Alexis Cole at Sarasota Jazz Festival (updated)

Alexis Cole and Eric Alexander
New York-based singer Alexis Cole's quintet, featuring tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, performed Friday night at the 34th annual Sarasota Jazz Festival.

Cole's band also included pianist John di Martino, bassist David Finck and drummer Kenny Washington. Here's a link to my concert review for

The festival ended its week-long run Saturday, March 1 with a concert at The Players Theatre featuring pianist Dick Hyman and clarinetist Ken Peplowski. The reed player was honored with the Jazz Club of Sarasota's annual Satchmo Award for his contributions to jazz.

Major concerts earlier in the week featured trumpeter Charlie Bertini's Orlando-based quintet and saxophonists Peter and Will Anderson.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The joy of sax - and trumpet - in a solid jazz setting

Mark Gould, Bob Switzer
Mark Gould's intense tenor sax artistry and Bon Switzer's lyrical trumpet and flugelhorn work blended beautifully at today's South County Jazz Club matinee concert at the Venice Art Center in Venice FL. The pair were featured in drummer Al Hixon's Underheard Herd, a revolving band who this time out also included pianist Dick Reynolds and bassist John Lamb.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Profiling jazz bassist Buster Williams

Buster Williams, Newport 1988
The March issue of Hot House magazine is out. Its features include my profile of bassist Buster Williams, who brings his quartet Something More into Manhattan’s Smoke jazz club at the end of the month. This extraordinary musician has worked with a very long list of jazz giants over the past 55 years. (Her went on the road with saxophonist Sonny Stitt at age 17). 

He talked extensively about the fine art of making jazz, which he described as “living in the realm of danger.” Not all of his perspective fit into the profile’s word limit. So here is a bit more to savor: 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Finding the jazz at a “jazz festival”

The cachet of jazz sometimes is stronger than the music itself. Madison Avenue continues to use bits and pieces for some of its commercials, and more than a few events across the country bill themselves as jazz festivals when nothing could be farther from the truth. A couple come to mind in the Mountain and Pacific time zones whose lineups are mostly R&B or pop stars with perhaps a bit of “smooth jazz” – a radio programming consultant’s term for contemporary instrumental music that raged across the country in the mid-1980s and well into the 1990s.

Friday, February 21, 2014

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs by Craig Handy, Herb Silverstein, Dave Stryker, Helen Sung and Volcán...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Klaus Bader's jazz digs deeply into the swing tenor tradition

Klaus Bader
The South County Jazz Club's matinee series took on an international flavor at the Venice Art Center in Venice FL with an appearance by tenor saxophonist Klaus Bader. He flew in for Friday's gig from his native Germany, along with guitarist Peter Starkmann. The quintet also included three Southwest Florida musicians - pianist Johnny Varro, bassist Don Mopsick and drummer Tony Martin.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Small group jazz in the spotlight

Two very different approaches to small group jazz got strong workouts in Monday night's Charlotte County Jazz Society artist series concert at the Charlotte County Cultural Center in Port Charlotte FL.

Zoot and Jug go to church through jazzman Terry Myers

Terry Myers
Saxophonist Terry Myers was the featured guest soloist at Sunday's Jazz at First Church concert series in downtown Sarasota with two excellent sets.

Iowa native Myers, a longtime Central Florida resident best known for leading his Tribute to Benny Goodman Big Band, as well as leading the current edition of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, excels in the small group format in which he was featured at First United Methodist Church.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A jazz samba kind of day

Kenny Drew Jr.
Drummer Tom Carabasi brought his Samba Jazz Quartet to the Englewood (FL) Art Center Friday for a matinee concert sponsored by the South County Jazz Club. The band included pianist Kenny Drew Jr., saxophonist Rodney Rojas and electric bassist Patrick Bettison.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Freddy Cole - still the consummate jazz balladeer at 82

Singer Freddy Cole was last night's special guest of the Naples Jazz Orchestra. The Cambier Park outdoor concert in Naples FL also featured one of Cole's longtime accompanists, guitarist Randy Napoleon.

Cole is the master of the jazz ballad. He can turn bluesy or take a more uptempo swing approach as the situation warrants, but ballads have always been his forte. Napoleon became the 17th member of the NJO for the evening, relishing its strong support as he dug into Cole's numbers as well as several of his own interesting originals. Here's the link to my more extensive review for JazzTimes.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs by Cava Menzies and Nick Phillips, Anton Schwartz, and the Rossano Sportiello-Ed Metz-Nicki Parrott trio...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Channeling jazz counterpoint - a la Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan

Greg Nielsen and Tom Ellison
Multi-instrumentalist Greg Nielsen and saxophonist Tom Ellison dug deeply into the Gerry Mulligan songbook Friday in a South County Jazz Club concert that focused primarily on the baritone saxophonist's classic collaborations with trumpeter Chet Baker and trombonist Bob Brookmeyer.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Looking Ahead: A Southwest Florida jazz preview

Here’s a preview of some of the more interesting jazz events in the Sarasota to Naples territory from now through March. There are also a couple of Tampa Bay-area listings for those of you who don’t mind driving a few miles more to hear great music.

  • Monday, February 3 – Singer-pianist Freddy Cole (Nat’s brother) guests with The Naples Jazz Orchestra, Cambier Park, Naples. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 5 – The Dukes of Dixieland, Daniels Pavilion, Artis Naples. 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, February 9 Pat Metheny Unity Group, Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 7 p.m.;
  • Monday, February 10 – Naples-based singer Jebry (Judy Branch) and her band, and pianist Mike Markaverich’s trio are the double bill at this Charlotte County Jazz Society’s Artists Series concert, Charlotte Cultural Center in Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Friday, February 14 – Singer Tony Bennett is at the Van Wezel in Sarasota, and at Artis NaplesHayes Hall on Sunday, February 16. Both concerts are 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, February 18  Jonathan Batiste and the Stay Human Band, Straz Center’s Ferguson Hall, Tampa, 8 p.m.
    Mindi Abair
  • Saturday, February 22 – Ninth annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival. This smooth jazz event features St. Petersburg native Mindi Abair (for the sixth straight year), Richard Elliott (for the second consecutive year), and the closing act tandem of Gerald Albright and Norman Brown, Laishley Park, Punta Gorda 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Local mainstream jazz musicians at this otherwise instrumental pop event will be featured at the third annual jazz brunch at the Isles Yacht Club on Sunday the 23rd. They include trombonist Greg Nielsen, trumpeter Bob Zottola, saxophonists Gilly DiBenedetto and Bill Rignola, pianist Matt Bokulic, bassist Dominic Mancini and drummer Rich Ianuzzi. Brunch tickets must be purchased at the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce or through its website.
  • Feb 23 – March 1 34th annual Sarasota Jazz Festival. It opens with a free afternoon concert at Phillippi Estate Park, 5500 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Bring a blanket or a chair, but no coolers. Major concerts at The Players Theatre: Tuesday, February 25 – trumpeter Charlie Bertini’s quintet; Thursday, Feb. 27 – The Anderson Brothers; Friday, February 28 – Singer Alexis Cole; Saturday. March 1 – pianist Dick Hyman and clarinetist Ken Peplowski.
  • Sunday, March 2 – Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli team up for Straighten Up and Fly Right, a Nat King Cole tribute show, Hayes Hall, Artis Naples. 7 p.m.
    John Pizzarelli Jr.
  • Saturday, March 15 – Jim Cullum’s Riverwalk Jazz Band, The South County Jazz Club’s concert series at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota. 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 16 - Bayshore Cultural and Performing Arts Center’s Jazz on the Green concert series presents guitarist Steve Uscher’s group. Edison State College Collier Campus, 7007 Lely Cultural Parkway, Naples. Bring a blanket or lawn chair. Free. 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, March 19 – New York-based guitarist Peter Bernstein is special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra. Daniels Pavilion, Naples, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. 
  • Monday, March 24 – Singer Carmen Bradford guests with The Naples Jazz Orchestra, Cambier Park, Naples. 7 p.m.
    A few local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte and The Roadhouse in Ft. Myers) offer jazz steadily, and there will be a variety of varied afternoon concerts sponsored all season by the Jazz Club of Sarasota and South County Jazz Club.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Newport Jazz Festival lineup set

Whether you like your jazz to be traditional mainstream, big band, edgy, avant garde, Latin- or gospel-tinged, funky or had-bopping, it looks like there is something for everyone at next August's Newport Jazz Festival.

George Wein
Founding producer George Wein and his New York-based production team have expanded their programming for this 60th anniversary event. Yes, it is hard to believe it has been 60 years since the first festival back in July 1954. This actually will be the 50th Newport Jazz Festival held in Newport. The festival moved to New York City after riots in 1971... and didn't return to the city-by-the-sea until 1981.

The August 1-3 festival has an extra full day of programming tacked on, plus a symposium at Fort Adams State Park that will explore how jazz relates to popular culture in today's society, compared to when the festival began in 1954.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Chops + Chemistry = The Finest Jazz

Harry Allen
Drummer Eddie Metz Jr.'s international trio with bassist Nicki Parrott and pianist Rossano Sportiello brought tenor saxophonist Harry Allen with them for tonight's Charlotte County Jazz Society concert in Port Charlotte, FL. Together they displayed the finest qualities in making jazz.

Each has formidable chops and the chemistry they have developed as a trio - and working together in various other permutations - is a great strength. Allen, who has absorbed stylistic influences from many of the great mainstream tenorists in jazz but parrots none - was the icing on this splendid cake.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 - The Year In Jazz

The West Coast now has its a jazz edifice of its own with strong roots, International Jazz Day grew in scope during year two, jazz made its mark on Broadway, and the number of musicians lost during the year was large and painful. That’s the summary of my lengthy look back at significant happenings across the jazz world over the past 12 months. It was published today at

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Big Band Jazz - On A Misty Night

This week's mail brought a hot-from-the-production-plant copy of The Naples Jazz Orchestra's debut CD, On A Misty Night. It was recorded last February 18 at the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert series.

I won't be reviewing it, that's for others to do this time out. I was honored to be asked to provide the concert photography and the liner notes for this excellent big band project.

On a Misty Night is now available through the orchestra’s website,, and several of the online music retailers including, CD Baby and iTunes.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas from the Jazz Notes staff.

This year we have some vintage musical cheer to share from among our holiday favorites.

Three to Get Merry, in fact.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Toronto-New Orleans link

Toronto-based pianist Jim Clayton considers New Orleans his home away from home. He spends considerable vacation time and got married there. He also decided to make his newest CD in the Crescent City, with four New Orleans-based jazz musicians. Songs My Daughter Knows is on the pianist’s Clay-Tone label.

Clayton developed the project around songs familiar to or inspired by his young daughter, Lenny. It’s an unusual concept, but one that works well. It also underscores the primary ingredients in making jazz: it’s not about the source material so much as the improvisational art practiced by versatile musicians, and their ability to think as one on any given tune. Mixing in a variety of N’awlins rhythms created a bubbling musical gumbo.

Here’s a link to my full review from the January 2014 issue of Offbeat.

Friday, December 20, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs by Bob Devos, Jake Hertzog, Frank Macchia, Bill McBirnie and a vintage Miles Davis boxed set…

Monday, December 16, 2013

A terrific jazz trio by any name

Eddie Metz Jr.
The splendid jazz trio, featuring drummer Eddie Metz Jr., bassist Nicki Parrott and pianist Rossano Sportiello, has been working together for several years, honing a fine, swinging blend of mainstream  jazz. Often it feels like a leaderless adventure, with no one person calling all the shots. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A saxful Friday

The saxophone ruled on the Sarasota jazz scene on Friday, December 13 with two separate, excellent concerts.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jazzman Del Gatto honors his heroes

Lew Del Gatto and Judi Glover
Tenor saxophonist Lew Del Gatto honored his tenor sax heroes Friday during a South County Jazz Club concert at the Venice Art Center. The 25-year Saturday Night Live Band mainstay, now living in Naples FL, performed in a quartet format with pianist Judi Gover, bassist Don Mopsick and drummer Patricia Dean.

Along Came Benny, With Vigor and Stories

The Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra brought Benny Golson to town last night for a concert that gave spirited and loving extended treatments to the tenor saxophonist’s best-known compositions. Golson put each composition into context with witty and vivid storytelling. The audience at Artis Naples’ Daniels Pavilion in Naples FL was treated to great music - and an appreciation of the time and settings in which he matured as an artist.

Here's a link to my full review at

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Top 10 listings

This the season for the outpouring of Top 10 lists, and their many variations, for jazz, world events, etc. The jazz lists always have a lot of variation depending on the individual reviewer's personal tastes, as well as what he or she had a chance to hear during the year.* Bottom line, all of these are very subjective.

The choices below (aside from top 10 new songs of the year) were submitted to the Jazz Times and NPR Music 2013 compilations. (The latter is a Francis Davis-produced poll that previously was published by The Village Voice and

As I begin preparing my review of significant events and trends in jazz in 2013 for posting on, I thought I'd share my "best of 2013" lists. *Always keep in mind the above caveats.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jazz on this holiday weekend’s Record Store Day

The record collectors among you who can’t resist going out on Black Friday should stop by your local independent record shops. They need the business far more than any of the big box stores. Plus, it is the Black Friday edition of Record Store Day.