Saturday, February 16, 2019

Musical love takes many forms

Music has been called the universal language, capable of bringing together people of many different countries, cultures and genres. West African percussionist Aiyb Dieng also considers it an expression of love uniting performers with each other - and with their listeners.
Aiyb Dieng
Dieng, a native of Senegal, has worked with a wide range of musicians, including  Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, Bill Laswell, Bob Marley and Herbie Hancock. The list also includes Karl Berger, who founded Woodstock NY's eclectic, avant garde-tinged Creative Music Studio in 1972 with his wife, singer Ingrid Sertso, and encouragement from Ornette Coleman.

Dieng shared his music in three different formats on Friday, February 15, at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in downtown Fort Myers FL. His huge arsenal of drums and other hand percussion instruments, surrounding him on racks and tables. were at the heart of it all, even when he had some help from to different groups of musical friends.

Clint Robinson
The program began with four or five solo percussion numbers, as Dieng improvised moods and exotic melodies on his drums, shakers, other musical noisemakers, and a musical bow.

The evening took the first of two sharp turns when he brought three other players to the stage for a healthy dose of Jamaican music, a tip of the hat perhaps to his association with Marley. It started, quite appropriately, with Marley's "One Love," included a reggae version of "If I Were a Carpenter" and closed with Marley's "Rasta Man Chant" - its poignant "Fly Away Home to Zion" lyrics delivered by singer Clint Robinson and keyboardist-singer Dave Walker.

Amina Claudine Myers
Rachella Parks-Washington
The second set was nothing like the first, as Dieng went into "free jazz" mode with some creative music notables: Hammond B-3 organist Amina Claudine Myers, tenor saxophonist Rachella Parks-Washington, violinist Charles Burnham, electric bassist Ted Myerson and drummer Pheeroan akLaff. 

Charles Burnham
Pheeroan akLaff
Together, they roared through a half-dozen extended pieces, each taking solos but also blending their individual sounds into the thick musical conversation. Dieng shifted from one drum, gong or shaker to another before returning to his congas and bata drum. No vocals, no song introductions. Just sharing their instrumental harmony.

That feeling floated out into the audience, which seemed spellbound by the moment and answered that message of love with an enthusiastic ovation. 

Parks-Washington, Burnham, Myerson, akLaff, Dieng, Myers

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mastery and stylistic breadth carry the night

No matter which gems brothers Peter and Will Anderson choose to explore from the very wide and deep jazz canon, the pair always delight with their technique, clever arrangements and swinging musicality.

Such was the case on Monday, February 11, when the 31-year-old identical twins performed in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s Artist Series in Port Charlotte FL. Paris-born guitarist Felix Lemerle, a Fullbright Scholar who has worked regularly with the Andersons for two years, completed the trio.

Will and Peter Anderson

Stylistically the music was all over the map, but the Andersons embraced it and transformed the varied selections into something all their own. We’re talking vintage New Orleans, Claude Debussy’s classical masterpiece “Clair de Lune,” some movie soundtrack gems, and something from the pen of hard-bop composer Horace Silver, as well as early Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.

Felix Lemerle
Peter Anderson (the elder brother, by one hour) played tenor and soprano saxophones, and clarinet. Will Anderson (the taller brother, by one inch) played alto sax, clarinet and flute. Lemerle soloed and played rhythm guitar as the situation demanded, also tapping his fret board to provide a drum-like rhythm on occasion.

The twins are Bethesda, MD natives who studied at Juilliard and are based in New York City. They shifted with ease between instruments, sometimes doubling on the melody or handing the melody off to each other in seamless fashion.

They also supported each other’s solos with a more rhythmic role. Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” which became Artie Shaw’s biggest hit, was a prime example. As Will dug into the familiar melody on clarinet, Peter used his tenor sax to drop in accent notes that kept time much like a drummer or bassist.

Their version of “Clair de Lune” was unusual. The combined sound they created on tenor sax and clarinet melded into something that at times seemed like it was coming from an accordion.

Other material presented in this program included “These are a Few of My Favorite Things,” “After You’ve Gone,” “Basin Street Blues,” a teasing arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue,” Horace Silver’s funky “The Preacher,” “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Mood Indigo,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Moon River,” “Darn That Dream” and a burning take on Ray Noble’s “Cherokee” before closing with Louis Armstrong’s “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” 

Will Anderson
This was the brothers’ second Port Charlotte visit. They first performed for CCJS four years ago. At that February 9, 2015 concert, they performed “Reed Reflections,” which a good friend, New York-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Kyle Athayde, wrote for them as a symphonic piece.

Peter Anderson
This night, they shared Athayde’s "Appalachian Mountain Song." Featuring the brothers on clarinets, the complex and vivid song’s textures and rhythms sounded like it was inspired by the Appalachian Round song form. It was composed for clarinets and a 31-piece string orchestra. Lamerle took on all of the string responsibilities with his artful guitar work.

The concert at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s William H. Wakeman III Theater drew a crowd of more than 300.
Will Anderson, Felix Lemerle, Peter Anderson

Friday, February 8, 2019

An afternoon of pleasant surprises

When clarinetist Bud Leeds pulls together a band for a concert, you can never be sure what you'll get, numbers-wise, but it is a guaranteed good time. Such was the case with his Friday, February 8 matinee concert for the South County Jazz Club in Venice FL.

The band this day included Bob MacInnis on cornet, clarinet and trombone, Bobby van Deusen on piano, Bob Leary on rhythm banjo and guitar, Don Mopsick on bass and Dick Maley on drums. Judy Alexander joined for several vocal numbers.

The big treat - unexpected by many in the crowd - was the guest appearances by Isaac Mingus. The 21-year-old jazz and classical bassist and cellist attends the University of Florida in Gainesville, and performs in the Charlotte and Venice Symphonies, as well as several area jazz bands, including the Pleiades Ensemble.
Mopsick, Mingus

Mingus and Mopsick were front and center for a dueling-basses take on Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." This arrangement was drawn from bassist Paul Chambers' Bass on Top recording. 

Then Mingus and van Deusen collaborated on Italian Romantic composer Giovanni Bottesini's "Reverie in D minor for double bass and piano." It likely was the only classical piece that has been performed at a SCJC event since the club was founded in July 2010. Later in the concert. Mingus performed two jazz pieces on cello: Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova "Wave" and the Great American Songbook classic "As Long as There's You." No matter the genre, he's a gifted player to keep an eye on.
Leeds, MacInnis

Other special moments:
  • Van Deusen's tour de force version of "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" Was a tip of the hat to composer Michel Legrand, who died in late January.
  • Leeds and MacInnis teamed up for a twin clarinets take on a "mothers" medley: "My Mother's Eyes" (first recorded by George Jessel in 1929) and Sidney Bechet's poignant "Si Tu Vois Ma Mere" (If You See my Mother).
    Van Deusen, Trumble
  • South County Jazz Club's artistic director (and founding president) Morrie Trumble played tenor saxophone with the band on "Back Home in Indiana." In past concerts, he has only been on stage to make announcements.
Other classic jazz material included "Wolverine Blues," "Royal Garden Blues," "Lady Be Good" and It's a Wonderful World."

The concert was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice.

Van Deusen, Trumble, Leary, Mopsick, Leeds, Maley, MacInnis

Thursday, January 31, 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 March.

  • Sunday, February 3, 2019 – The Terry Myers Orchestra’s tribute to Benny Goodman. Venice Performing Arts Center. Venice,  2 p.m.
  • Peter & Will Anderson
    Wednesday, February 6 – Trombonist Andy Martin guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2018-2019 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, February 11 – Twin saxophonists Peter and Will Anderson 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, February 13 – The Eddie Metz-Nicki Parrott-Rossano Sportiello trio. A South County Jazz Club concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center. Sarasota. 8 p.m.
  • Friday, February 15 – Senegalese percussionist Aiyb Dieng & Friends perform in the Jazzy Nights concert series. Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Fort Myers. 7 p.m.
  • Friday, February 15 – Pianist Herbie Hancock in concert. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 23 – The 14th annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival features saxophonist Gerald Albright, The Sax Pack (Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and Kim Waters) and guitarist Matt Marshak. This has always been a smooth jazz event. Albright’s versatility and chops mean you might hear some real jazz for a change. Laishley Park, Punta Gorda. The music starts at 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 27 – Trumpeter Chuck Findley guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2018-2019 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  •  Friday, March 1 – Singer Michael Feinstein with special guest Laura Osnes. Hayes Hall, Artis-Naples. 8 p.m.
    Roxy Coss
  • Wednesday, March 6 to Saturday March 9 – 39th annual Sarasota Jazz Festival. The talent lineup for this “Generations of Jazz”-themed event includes Shelly Berg, Randy Brecker, Bill Charlap, Roxy Coss, Dick Hyman, musical director and reed player Ken Peplowski, Houston Person, Randy Sandke, Mary Stallings, the University of Miami Big Band, and many others. Hyatt Regency Sarasota.
  • Monday, March 11 – Pianist Jim Roberts’ Saxtet 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.
  • Sunday, March 24 – The Four Freshmen in concert. A South County Jazz Club concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center. Sarasota. 2 p.m.
Several local venues (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte; 88 Keys Florida and The Blue Turtle in Punta Gorda; Amore, the Art Ovation Hotel and the Starlite Room in Sarasota; The Roadhouse and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Fort 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.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Have chops, will travel

Rising-star jazz singer Veronica Swift is quite the traveler.

She disembarked from The Jazz Cruise on Saturday, January 26 in Fort Lauderdale. Her Sunday afternoon gig was a mere 200 miles away in Sarasota, a relatively short three-hour journey across Alligator Alley and up Interstate 75.

Veronica Swift
But she took a different, 5,200-mile, route. Swift hopped a plane to Los Angeles, performed Saturday night with trumpeter Chris Botti, then took a red-eye flight back to Florida for her matinee performance with the Jeff Rupert quartet. She was jet lagged and ship lagged, but not at all jazz lagged.

“It feels like I’m coming home, because these guys are like family,” Swift said. The South County Jazz Club performance at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center teamed her with Rupert, pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Ben Kramer and drummer Marty Morell.

Together they dug into a wide range of material, including a bit of Brazilian jazz (“Baia” from the Charlie Byrd/Stan Getz 1962 Jazz Samba bossa nova collaboration), the Pete Rugolo-arranged June Christy hit “Interlude” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Ginza Samba,” and several Rupert originals, including one with lyrics by Swift.
Veronica Swift, Jeff Rupert

Their takes on “September in the Rain,” “Pennies From Heaven” and Sidney Bechet’s “Strollin’ on the Champs Elysées” were excellent showcases for Swift’s vocal techniques. She sings with perfect pitch, she writes and delivers vocalese lyrics to classic horn solos, scats with great musical skill, and emulates instruments to trade phrases with the other players. On this day, she delivered bass sounds in her back-and-forth with Kramer, and then became a trombonist mixing it up with Rupert’s tenor work on the Bechet tune.

Swift has a musical maturity well beyond her 24 years, thanks in large measure to her foundation. The daughter of late jazz pianist Hod O’Brien and singer Stephanie Nakasian began performing with her family – and others – before she was 10.

The second-place finisher  in 2015’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocal Competition and two years out of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, she’s now based in New York City but lives out of her suitcase in large measure.

After the Glenridge, she was headed to Miami to record a non-jazz project for four days, then off to Arizona for several concerts with Botti’s band, followed by a two-month tour with pianist Benny Green’s trio. Ah, to be young with boundless musical energy.
Richard Drexler, Veronica Swift Jeff Rupert, Ben Kramer, Marty Morell

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Jazz at sea with healthy doses of Latin flavor

Anybody who didn’t hear enough music aboard the 2019 edition of The Jazz Cruise only has themselves to blame. The offerings were plentiful and varied, with music running from 11:30 a.m. to after 1 a.m., with staggered programming in five different performance spaces. There were more than 100 jazz musicians in the lineup, and about 2,000 passengers aboard the m/s Celebrity Infinity.

The cruise departed Fort Lauderdale FL on Saturday, January 19 and returned a week later after brief stops in St. Croix, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Labadee, Haiti. Clearly, most folks aboard were there for the music. It was the 19th annual cruise, and more than a few passengers have been on most of them.

Valdés, DeFrancesco, Shaheed
This year’s personal treats:
  • Pianist Chucho Valdés was aboard with his Cuban quartet. In addition to multiple performances with that band’s exotic polyrhythms, Valdés teamed up for the first time with organist Joey DeFrancesco (and Joey D’s drummer, Khary Shaheed). They dug deep into a half-dozen jazz standards, adding their own imprints and responding to each other’s solos.
  • Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon’s annual Gospel Hour featured a blend of players plus singer Niki Harris. After Gordon’s solo horn version of “The Lord’s Prayer,” alto saxophonist Jeff Clayton told the audience to “Think of God like an insurance policy. Whatever he is, whatever she is, whatever it is, God will protect you.” This one is always a stirring program.
    Rickey Woodard's Gospel Hour solo
  • Australian trumpeter James Morrison, fondly dubbed “The Thunder from “Down Under,” pulled together an all-star group of musicians to explore the music from Dizzy Gillespie’s 1957 recording The Greatest Trumpet of them All. It was the first jazz recording Morris heard, at age 8, and he called it a life-changing moment. The album was arranged by Benny Golson. After digging into the Dizzy fare, the band also performed three Golson originals: “I Remember Clifford,” “Out of the Past” and “Killer Joe.” Golson was aboard the cruise with his own quartet, and turned 90 on Friday the 25th.
  • Trumpeter Randy Brecker and alto saxophonist Eric Marienthal spent one lively hour paying tribute to the music of the Adderley Brothers. 
    Joey Alexander
  • Pianist Joey Alexander, now 15, made his first visit to The Jazz Cruise, boarding the ship for a few hours during its St. Croix stopover for a Sirius XM radio taping with pianist/host Shelly Berg.  He also performed two shows of original material with his trio with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland.
  • Bassist John Clayton, who led the ship’s all-star big band during its three performances, also was featured with the Clayton Brothers band. At the first show by the quintet, John Clayton called the 2019 edition “our most important cruise.” Even a few weeks
    The Clayton Brothers band
    before the cruise, he was unsure his brother Jeff would be aboard, because he has been battling kidney cancer. Jeff had been woodshedding after hospitalizations and rehab and felt well enough to make the trip – and perform. He got a bit winded now and then, but the music was passionate and heart-felt.
  • Singer Veronica Swift performed in a variety of contexts all week: a concert with pianist Shelly Berg, who was one of her mentors at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, several sets with
    Swift, Brecker, Hamilton
    pianist Emmet Cohen, and a cameo with the big band, dubbed the Anita Berry Big Band in honor of the cruise’s founder. With the Jeff Hamilton-powered big band backing her, Swift performed “September in the Rain” and “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” (the latter was a John Clayton arrangement that he’d penned for the late Nancy Wilson). On the closer, Swift went head-to-head trading vocal-trumpet solos with Brecker. It was a powerful moment on a cruise filled with many great moments.
  • The SFJAZZ Collective performed its members' arrangements of material from Antonio Carlos Jobim’s extensive bossa nova repertoire, as well as originals commissioned by the SFJAZZ organization for this season. The band included tenor saxophonist David Sanchez, trumpeter Etienne Charles, trombonist Robin
    John Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski
    Eubanks, vibes player Warren Wolf, pianist Edward Simon, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Obed Calvaire. Sanchez and Charles often doubled on congas.
The many other musicians aboard included clarinetist Ken Peplowski, pianists Bill Charlap, Eliane Elias and Renee Rosnes, trumpeter Sean Jones, drummer Tommy Igoe, saxophonists Ada Rovatti, Jimmy Greene and Houston Person, guitarists Graham Dechter and Grant Geissman, singer Cyrille Aimée, Mary Stallings and Steve Tyrell. 
Even on the final night, when passengers needed to get their luggage ready to disembark early the next morning, some were getting in one last musical treat for their ears. The mid-ship Rendezvous Lounge was packed for evening sets by the Jeff Hamilton trio and Veronica Swift with Emmet Cohen's trio. It was standing room only, with more than a few sitting on the floor in the aisles.
Emmet Cohen
SFJAZZ Collective