Monday, January 20, 2020

Metz-Parrott-Sportiello dig into the jazz canon - and popular songbook


The International Trio swings with immense joy, humor, mega-talent and professionalism wherever they play. Any road weariness - or even jet-lag - is left behind once its members hit the stage.

That was clear on Sunday, January 19, when drummer Eddie Metz Jr., bassist and singer Nicki Parrott, and pianist Rossano Sportiello concluded their week-long Florida tour with a matinee concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Sarasota.

Eddie Metz Jr.
They'd brought 130 CDs to sell on this tour that brought them to Port Charlotte, Avon Park, The Villages, Winter Park, Vero Beach and Sarasota. By the time they got to the Glenridge, they only had a handful left - and those were snapped up quickly during intermission at this sold-out event.

The performance was top notch. And 80 percent of the material was something not heard six nights nights earlier in Port Charlotte.

Rossano Sportiello
They included wide-ranging George Gershwin, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Thelonious Monk medleys, and several Sportiello tips-of-the-hat to influential pianists (George Shearing and Erroll Garner). Parrott's vocal gems included the Doris Day Hit "Fools Rush In" and clever lyric updates to the Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller 1962 song "I'm a Woman," which was a big seller for singer Peggy Lee. (This is the centennial of Lee's birth year).

Nicki Parrott
The only repeats from Port Charlotte were staples from the trio's repertoire: Garner's "Misty," Parrott's take on Ella Fitzgerald's hit "Mr. Paganini," Sportiello's adventurous Chopin meets Fats Waller feature (Chopin's "Waltz in C Sharp Minor" with a Stride piano finish), and versatile drummer Metz's cardboard box feature. (See the January 14 post for more detail on that).

The band also digs deep into the jazz canon to share material best described as lesser-known gems. This day, it was longtime Ellington alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges' "You Blew Out the Flame in My Heart" (also known as "Rabbit's Blues").

Parrott got back from a holiday visit to her native Australia just three days before the Florida tour. On Monday, January 20, she was off to the airport again. She flew home to Connecticut for something ceremonial - her naturalization as a new U.S. citizen.   

Morrie Trumble co-produced the Sarasota concert at the 260-seat GPAC as part of his Jazz With Morrie series. 


Rossano Sportiello, Nicki Parrott, Eddie Metz Jr.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The International Trio’s return visit swings mightily


Drummer Eddie Metz Jr.’s trio with Italian pianist Rossano Sportiello and Australian bassist-singer Nicki Parrott sure knows how to swing its music. It did so on Monday, January 13 with creativity, poignancy, a bit of humor – and a program that honored the players’ great influencers.
Eddie Metz Jr.

This was the band’s fourth visit to the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert stage in nine seasons. It was clear from the first notes that their sound and simpatico have reached new heights – and the audience responded in kind. This is a band of equal partners. Their concert programming has evolved over the years to a point where they have combined their formidable musical talents in ways that appeal to their listeners.
Rossano Sportiello
Sportiello’s keyboard command and sprightly Stride-influenced style set the tone for the night as the band opened with Earl Hines’ “A Monday Date,” then dug into a stunning version of Erroll Garner’s “Misty” that showcased Parrott’s melodic bass artistry on her mid-tune solo. The segment ended with their teasing take on Stride master Fats Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose.”

Nicki Parrott
The next segment underscored Parrott’s vocals. This being the centennial year of Peggy Lee’s birth, she opened with the Lee hit “It’s a Good Day,” then performed the Nat King Cole hit “L-O-V-E” and Ella Fitzgerald’s 1936 hit “Mr. Paganini.”  She also performed Lee’s classic “Fever” later in the concert.

The first set concluded with material associated with Count Basie. The bandleader hired 20-year-old Metz, who was still in school at William Paterson University, to go on the road for six months as the band’s drummer in the early 1980s. What a way to boost a career. The trio performed “Shiny Stockings” and “Shoe Shine Boy” with the drummer’s power and subtleties on full display.

Sportiello paid additional tribute to Garner, as well as George Shearing (“She”), Oscar Peterson and Chopin in the second set. After the pianist dug into Garner’s “”I Can’t Get Started,” Metz shook his head and said, “If you closed your eyes, you’d swear Erroll Garner was playing here tonight.” Sportiello’s treatment of Peterson’s classic ballad “You Look Good to Me” honored the composer but was imbued with his own touches. Later, he reimagined the classical “Waltz in C Sharp Minor” as a meeting of the minds between composer Chopin and Fats Waller. It was a stunning display of his piano mastery.

In a poignant change of pace, Parrott performed one more modern song in honor of the firefighters, animal rescue personnel and others helping combat Australia's horrific bush fires. She chose “Rainbow Connection,” which Kermit the Frog sang in 1979’s The Muppet Movie. Later, she honored guitarist and inventor Les Paul, with whom she played for 10 years at Iridium in New York. The two-song tribute included “Young at Heart” (with a few lyrical twists) and “How High the Moon,” which was a 1951 mega-hit for Paul and his wife, singer Mary Ford.
Eddie Metz Jr.

Florida-based Metz, whose roots are in Michigan, completed his Basie tribute with a clever solo performance of “Cute” from the Count’s repertoire. He played this version of the Neal Hefti tune out in front of his drum set, using brushes on a cardboard box held between his legs. He reached back a few times to hit the bass drum or a cymbal for added effect.

The trio closed things out with “St. Louis Blues,” with the audience standing en masse and clapping along on this exhilarating evening.

Early in the concert, Parrott thanked the audience for turning out in such strong numbers “on a Tuesday night.” She returned three days earlier from an Australian holiday visit. Parrott was jet-lagged, but you couldn’t tell in her playing. Reminded that it was Monday, she quipped, “It’s Tuesday in Australia.”

This Port Charlotte concert opened a week-long Florida tour by the trio. It drew more than 380 people to the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s William H. Wakeman III Theater.
The International Trio

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Looking back at 2019

AllAboutJazz has published my annual comprehensive review of goings on in the jazz world in 2019, things great, things odd, things interesting - and sometimes tragic. 

International Jazz Day brought its biggest stage to Australia. An important but long-dormant jazz mecca was revived in a coast-to-coast move. ECM Records celebrated a golden year. The music and its makers figured prominently on the big screen. 

The National Endowment for the Arts welcomed four new NEA Jazz Masters. The jazz world said farewell to one other, who was among the many industry-associated musicians and figures who passed away during the year, some under tragic circumstances.

You can read it all here

Best wishes for the new year.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Have a holly, jolly, jazzy Christmas


Best wishes to you, your families and friends for a very Merry Christmas 2019, joyous New Year - and hopeful 2020 - from the Jazz Notes staff.  
 

A toast to you all as we share some vintage musical cheer from among our holiday favorites. Raise your glass, whatever your favorite libation!
 

The holiday season is never complete without the delightful animated video of The Drifters’ doo-wopping their way through “White Christmas” with feeling. It features Bill Pinckney on lead bass and Clyde McPhatter on tenor.. 

This animated cartoon by Joshua Held is excellent - and quite special

Thursday, December 19, 2019

An all-star evening in every respect

Guitarist Peter Bernstein teamed with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra on Wednesday, December 18 for a program that illuminated his all-star strengths as a player, improviser and composer.

Peter Bernstein
The concert, part of the sextet's All That Jazz series at Artis-Naples' Daniels Pavilion, took a different tack than usual. In this case, it focused on some of Bernstein's many fine originals. Two chestnuts from the bebop canon were added for good measure.

The sextet includes tenor saxophonist, arranger and musical director Lew Del Gatto (who spent 25 years in NBC's Saturday Night Live Band), trumpeter Dan Miller, violinist Glenn Basham, pianist Jerry Stawski, bassist Kevin Mauldin and drummer Mike Harvey. 

This was a return visit for native New Yorker Bernstein, who is 52. He was the sextet's special guest in 2014. Since starting his career in the late1980s, he has recorded more than a dozen albums as a leader, a few more as a co-leader, and played as a sidemen with a wide array of jazz heavyweights - from  elder masters to rising stars.

Jerry Stawski, Peter Bernstein
The night's five originals were wide-ranging in their feel and tempo, giving Bernstein and the band ample opportunity to showcase their soloing in a variety of moods. The opener, "Jet Stream," was a burner. "Simple As That" had a teasing melodic feel.
Lew Del Gatto
The extended piece "Dragonfly" featured the guitarist with just the rhythm section. Stawski's solo included some interesting twists. He occasionally added a few notes from which you could visualize an insect skittering over the water. "Jive Coffee," written over the chord changes to "Tea For Two," was a beautiful combined feature for Bernstein and Basham. The latter player is concertmaster and principal violinist for the Naples Philharmonic, which performs in neighboring Hayes Hall.
Kevin Mauldin, Dan Miller

The two non-Bernstein pieces were straight from two of the architects of bebop. Their version of Dizzy Gillespie's classic Latin ballad "Con Alma" got a faster tempo, and was heated even more by high-energy solo from Miller. Thelonious Monk's Bud Powell tribute, "In Walked Bud," opened with a Bernstein extended guitar solo before the full ensemble joined. It featured Del Gatto's always solid tenor mastery.

Bernstein's "Blood Wolf Moon Blues" was a splendid finish. Basham showed a rarely seen side of his musicality. His blues harmonica playing was nasty. Nasty in a very good way.

Peter Bernstein with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A great way to help area musicians in crisis

After an eight-year run of presenting mainstream jazz concerts in the Venice-Sarasota-Englewood area, the non-profit South County Jazz Club is dissolving this month because of organizational challenges. But its legacy will live on in a tangible way.

The club’s Board of Directors voted to donate its remaining treasury, more than $16,000, to the Jazz Foundation of America to establish and manage a dedicated fund to assist area musicians in need. The board stipulated that this Florida initiative be limited to an area from Tampa to the north, Naples to the south, and Orlando to the east. 

The JFA has a solid track record doing this sort of work. Its Musicians’ Emergency Fund provides housing assistance, pro bono medical care, disaster relief and direct financial support in times of crisis. It has been helping needy musicians for 30 years.  

The New York-based foundation handles an average of 30 individual musician emergency cases a day and approximately 9,000 assists every year. It prevents homelessness with housing assistance, keeps artists healthy with pro bono medical care and provides financial support that keeps the lights on and food on the table. It provided help to affected musicians in New Orleans and Puerto Rico after suffering losses and losing work from Hurricanes Katrina and Maria, as well as others impacted by similar natural disasters.

Morrie Trumble, the South County Jazz Club’s artistic director and founding president, said he considers the club’s funds as “seed money” to attract further donations that can support this initiative. I’ll provide more details as he develops that mechanism.*

JFA Executive Director Joe Petrucelli said this Florida-focused initiative will support musicians in need in Southwest and Central Florida by “providing them with direct assistance and cash grants, medical interventions, and holistic support from our highly qualified social work team.” 

He told the board that its contribution “will provide hope and dignity to hardworking artists in their darkest hours and help to preserve the legacy of the music by offering lifesaving assistance to the people who create it.” 

“Specifically, we can focus on artists who are unable to work due to debilitating health issues. Our licensed clinical social workers will conduct intake interviews to gain an understanding of each individual’s situation, medically and financially, and create a plan for providing assistance during the next year. We can make monthly bill payments on their behalf and offering ongoing case management and counseling. As with all of our clients, we will take on these musicians like family,” Petrucelli said. 

This Florida initiative makes great sense, and a need for it already exists.

“We have an aging population of players, most of whom have no meaningful pension or much Social Security," Trumble says. "There are several musicians in our area with significant medical issues who could benefit now from this program.”

I’ve been writing about – and supporting – the Jazz Foundation of America for more than 25 years. Its success numbers are dramatic. Since 2000, it has handled 80,000 cases internationally, raised more than $50 million to help musicians in crisis, and arranged for another $10 million in pro bono medical and legal assistance.

If you want to support this worthy endeavor, you don’t have to wait for the Florida mechanism to be activated. You can find lots of information at https://jazzfoundation.org/musicians-emergency-fund/ and can earmark any donations you make through its website for Southwest Florida musicians.

*Note: Morrie Trumble continues to produce area concerts independently through his new  initiative, Jazz With Morrie.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida Jazz Preview




Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through February, as the 2019-20 concert season continues….


December

  • Wednesday, December 18 – Guitarist Peter Bernstein guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2019-2020 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.

Nicki Parrott
 January

  • Sunday, January 12 – Violinist Cynthia Sayer’s Hot Jazz Quartet, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 2 p.m.
  • Monday, January 13 – Drummer Eddie Metz Jr., bassist-singer Nicki Parrott and pianist Rossano Sportiello (the International Trio) perform in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series. William H. Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 15 – Saxophonist Jerry Weldon guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2019-2020 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
    Kenny Washington
  • Friday, January 17– Singer Kenny Washington is featured with the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Quintet performs in the Jazzy Nights concert series. Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Fort Myers. 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 18 – Saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ quartet. Central Park Performing Arts Center, Largo, 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 19 – Drummer Eddie Metz Jr., bassist-singer Nicki Parrott and pianist Rosanno Sportiello. A Jazz With Morrie co-production. Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 30 – Pianist Dick Hyman, reed player Ken Peplowski and singer Clairdee perform Hyman’s movie music. Venice Performing Arts Center. 7 p.m.

February

  • Sunday, February 9 – Singer Veronica Swift and the Jeff Rupert quartet. A Jazz With Morrie co-production. Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 2.p.m.
  • Monday, February 10 – Pianist Roy Gerson’s Swingtet performs in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series. William H. Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 12 – Stefon Harris guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2019-2020 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 22 – The 15th annual edition of the Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival. This year’s smooth-jazz lineup at this Chamber of Commerce-run event features guitarist Matt Marshak, and saxophonists Eric Darius and Mindi Abair. Laishley Park. 1 p.m. on.
  • Saturday, February 22 – Singer Alexis Cole in concert. Firehouse Cultural Center, Ruskin. 7:30 p.m.
    Diego Figueiredo
  • Sunday, February 23 – Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo. A Jazz With Morrie co-production.  Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota. 2 p.m.
  • Tuesday, February 25 through Saturday, February 29: Singer Carmen Bradford and singer-trumpeter Byron Stripling join the Naples Philharmonic Pops in a Tribute to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Hayes Hall, Artis-Naples.

Several local venues offer jazz steadily. They include J.D.’s Bistro in Port Charlotte, The Blue Turtle in Punta Gorda, Amore, the Art Ovation Hotel and the Burns Court Bistro in Sarasota, the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin, The Roadhouse, Society and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Fort Myers, and Slate’s in Cape Coral. A variety of matinee concerts sponsored all season by the Jazz Club of Sarasota and Morrie Trumble Productions also keep things swinging for jazz lovers.