Wednesday, October 31, 2012

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs from Joey DeFrancesco, Frank Macchia and jazz programmer Rio Saikiri's "Home" project....

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Trio gig becomes much more

When is a trio gig NOT a trio gig? When the bandleader decides at the last minute to add another player without advance notice. Such was the case with yesterday's opener of the South County Jazz Club's new Englewood Art Center concert series in Englewood FL.
Rodney Rojas and Billy Marcus

The 60 or so concert goers expected to hear pianist Billy Marcus's trio with bassist Mark Neuenschwander and Steve Bucholtz. Because one key out of 88 on his electric keyboard was down for the count, without time to get it repaired, Marcus called saxophonist Rodney Rojas to supplement the solid lineup.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ellis Marsalis on music

Ellis Marsalis
The November issue of Hot House is out. It includes my profile of pianist Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of today's first family of jazz. Marsalis, whose work is rooted in the styles of his native New Orleans, chooses his notes with great care. That focus is essential to his subtle and relaxed sense of swing. He is at the Blue Note in New York November 8-11 with his quartet. Three days later he turns 78.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Today we take a look at three new CDs from four musicians with Rhode Island roots, Greg Abate, Daryl Sherman,  Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton....

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kenny Drew Jr. delights

Pianist Kenny Drew Jr.'s  performance at the Venice Arts Center yesterday was rich in originality, a dazzling command of the keyboard and tips of the hat to late piano greats who have influenced him mightily.
 He blended standards from the jazz canon and the American Songbook and his dazzling  solo improvisation on one classical piece, the first movement of Franz Liszt's "Liebestraum."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A golden career is being honored this week

Larry Monroe
(Photo by Phil Farnsworth)
Larry Monroe helped shape and expand the reach of Boston-based Berklee College of Music over the past 50 years in many ways. Most notably, Monroe helped establish Berklee’s international network of schools in 12 countries, including Berklee Valencia, the college's new campus in Spain.

His Berklee ties are strong - as a student, teacher, dean, vice president and global ambassador. As an educator, he influenced saxophonists Branford Marsalis, Miguel Zenon, Donald Harrison and countless others. Early in his career, alto saxophonist Monroe performed with Lou Rawls, Buddy Rich and Dizzy Gillespie.

The college will celebrate Monroe’s many contributions, but in some ways likely mourn his retirement, with a Berklee Performance Center concert on Thursday night, October 18, featuring students and faculty, former Monroe student Donald Harrison and Italian bassist Giovanni Tommaso, who helped Monroe create Berklee's 27-year partnership with the Umbria Jazz Festival.

It’s a fitting sendoff. What a run it has been.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jazz at New Jersey's southern tip continues

It is great to see that Cape May hasn’t given up on jazz – particularly having its own charming jazz festival.

Two years ago, the Cape May Jazz Festival ended its twice-a-year run (34 weekend festivals in 17 years) due to financial and organizational shortcomings. Some wondered whether the string of November and April festivals would ever be back as a way to extend the tourism season in quaint and charming Cape May.

The good news is that there will be a full-blown jazz festival next month.
The Exit 0 International Jazz Festival has scheduled performances by 21 bands Friday night through Sunday afternoon, November 9 to11.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The value of the ingredients that shape jazz

Musicians and listeners alike draw many positives from jazz beyond the immediate listening experience. It can be a healer, a soother, a creative outlet, a common meeting ground.

It's core ingredients also can have an impact on other disciplines, including business. A brief read  from Time magazine this week distills those essentials quite nicely.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Swinging the oldies with fresh arrangements

Johnny Varro
The Florida edition of pianist Johnny Varro's Swing 7 opened the Charlotte County Jazz Society's 2012-13 season tonight by giving a swinging vitality to vintage jazz material. Material that would be "no later than the '60s. That's beyond our time," Varro told the Charlotte Cultural Center audience.

The Port Charlotte FL concert featured tunes that Varro borrowed heavily from the Duke Ellington and Count Basie Orchestra songbooks, along with material composed by W.C. Handy, Jelly Roll Morton, Al Cohn, John LaPorta, Frank Foster, Benny Carter and Mel Powell, among others. Even Frederic Chopin made it into the mix.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mining the bluesy side of jazz

June Garber and Tom Ellison
Toronto's loss is Southwest Florida's gain. That's become very apparent very quickly since last month's arrival of singer June Garber, who moved to Sarasota with her husband, Bob Doherty.
Two weeks ago at the South County Jazz Club's Tuesday night jam session at Allegro Bistro in Venice, she wowed the crowd, including yours truly, with one of the bluesiest renditions of "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66" I've ever heard.