Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ho-Ho-Ho

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 JazzTimes.com.

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 Rhapsody.com).

As I begin preparing my review of significant events and trends in jazz in 2013 for posting on allaboutjazz.com, 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.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

The area jazz scene is heating up for its winter-spring season when most of the snowbirds are back in Florida. Here’s a preview of some of the more interesting jazz events in the Sarasota to Naples territory from now through February. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dave Glasser on carrying forward the grand traditions in jazz

New York-based Hot House magazine has published my profile of alto saxophonist Dave Glasser in its December issue. The bebopper who is keen on making sure new generations of players understand and appreciate the rich tradition of jazz as their musical voices evolve.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Multi-faceted jazz from a true multi-instrumentalist

Paul Duffy brings new meaning to the category "multi-instrumentalist." For his South County Jazz Club quartet gig today, he played tenor sax, guitar, trumpet and flute and sang. But he did just fine with his arsenal, backed by pianist Matt Bokulic, bassist Joe Porter and drummer David Pruyn at the Venice Art Center. Duffy had a soprano sax in his kit but didn't use it with the day's repertoire. He didn't bring his bagpipes this time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Insights into the improviser's art

Pianist Tommy Goodman shared his insights today on jazz improvisation, or as some musicians quite correctly call it, spontaneous composition. "The answer to the mystery of where it all comes from is experience. There is a lot of stuff to absorb," Goodman said. "It takes 10 or 12 years of playing five nights a week to become a skilled jazz player."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Roberts' jazz band bubbles with saxes

Jim Roberts
Pianist Jim Roberts was based in New York when he first performed for the Charlotte County Jazz Society at the nonprofit's first full-fledged concert back in 1991. Flash ahead 22 years from that trio date. Now based in Orlando, Roberts returned to the CCJS again Monday night for an Artists Series concert featuring his sextet, which quite appropriately uses the name Saxtet.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs by Gerry Gibbs, The Miami Saxophone Quartet and Bill O'Connell...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Jazz spotlight on Claudio Roditi

Hot House magazine has published my profile of trumpeter Claudio Roditi in its November issue. Chatting with this multi-faceted musician earlier this month was a wonderful chance to catch up on each other’s doings, having been out of touch over the past decade.  
 
Blending musical fire with deep feeling and precise articulation, two-time Grammy nominee Roditi has been a mainstay on the New York jazz scene for more than 35 years. He is spending a lot of time composing new music, teaching workshops and getting acquainted with his latest brass acquisition – a piccolo trumpet, which joins his arsenal of flugelhorn and rotary-valve trumpet..

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jazz reflecting both sides now

Pianist Kenny Drew Jr.'s trio and saxophonist Tom Ellison's band Hip Pocket opened the Charlotte County Jazz Society's 2013-14 season Thursday night with very different approaches in this first of two double bills this season.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Nickelson excels in jazz setting

LaRue Nickelson
Guitarist LaRue Nickelson's Tampa-based jazz trio opened the Englewood Art Center portion of the South County Jazz Club's 2013-14 season today.

Nickelson is a modernist who shows great respect for players who influenced him. He has absorbed many such influences - including Tal Farlow, Jim Hall, Pat Martino and Jimmy Raney - but parrots none of them when delivering his own take on standard fare. His bandmates were bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Ian Goodman. (All three are on the University of South Florida music faculty.)

Monday, October 7, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs by Gary Burton, The Inventions Trio and Redmond-Langosch-Cooley....

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Brotherly jazz – a special musical bond [updated]

Philadelphia has a wonderful lineage of jazz siblings. Just as the Jones brothers (Hank, Thad and Elvin) burst onto the jazz scene from Pontiac, Michigan, and the Marsalis clan emerged from New Orleans to make their mark on jazz, Philly gave jazz Jimmy, Percy and Albert “Tootie” Heath; Wallace and Antoine Roney; and Kevin, Robin and Duane Eubanks. 

It also was the birthplace of jazz brothers Dominic and Joe Mancini. Bassist Dominic was a longtime local fixture on the Philly-Atlantic City-South Jersey corridor for many years before moving to Southwest Florida a dozen or so years ago. Steady jazz gigs and golf keep him busy. Joe, based in South Jersey, plays piano three nights a week at Steve and Cookie’s in Margate NJ, where’s he’s been featured for 16 years. He works additional Atlantic City-area gigs on other nights. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Open Letter Update

UPDATE: Three members of the "alternative slate" of new officers for the South County Jazz Club have withdrawn their candidacies. They say the slate was proffered last week without their approval and/or knowledge.  

Any criticism  contained in my initial posting on Sunday was leveled at the leader of this campaign and whoever rallied behind him, not at the slate itself. It is unfortunate if these club members were put in this awkward situation without their knowledge or approval. KF

Sunday, September 29, 2013

An open letter to fellow South County Jazz Club members

Look behind the mirror before you vote

As a club member for two-thirds of the South County Jazz Club’s existence, I want to make a couple of comments about what I’ve observed over the past few months.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Jazz excellence opens matinee series

The South County Jazz Club's extensive 2013-14 series of afternoon concerts opened today at the Venice Art Center with the Bruce Wallace Trio featuring pianist Kenny Drew Jr. In addition to Drew and bassist Wallace, the band included drummer Tom Carabasi.

Drew was in fine form (when isn't he?) and western Florida is fortunate to have him call the area home. Nothing in his wide range of material was more poignant than his take on "Dedication" from his 1998  album, Passionata. He wrote the song in tribute to his late father, a bebop pianist who took his career to Europe in 1961 and died there in 1993.

Drew will be back October 14 for a trio appearance at the Charlotte Cultural Center in Port Charlotte that opens the Charlotte County Jazz Society's seven-month Artists Series.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs by Kenny Garrett, Jimmy Masters, Frank Potenza and Tierney Sutton...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview [Oct. 14 updated]

The snowbirds won’t be back in Florida in full force until January, but the earlybirds have begun trickling in. That’s another way of saying the concert seasons by southwest Florida jazz presenters are starting to ramp up.

I plan to do these previews quarterly for events in the Sarasota to Naples territory, with a few major items from the Tampa-St. Pete area now and then.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Naples Jazz Orchestra fans can breathe easier

At Monday's workshop on a proposal to limit special events taking place in downtown Naples, the City Council seemed to agree that shelving concerts by the Naples Jazz Orchestra on Monday nights January through May is no longer a possibility.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Big Band Jazz needs support in Naples – NOW

In just four seasons, Southwest Florida’s Naples Jazz Orchestra has developed into one of the state’s finest big bands. That’s no exaggeration. Some of the band's crack musicians drive two or three hours each way to rehearse and perform with the band because the experience is worth the commute. The NJO can hold its own with any big band anywhere. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs by Jimmy Amadie, Lili Añel and Michael Ross...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A smashing moment for live jazz

I love it when I walk into a club just before the magic happens. Such was the case Saturday night at JD’s Bistro & Grille in Port Charlotte FL. The house band that evening tried something a bit different – and it was marvelous.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Berkshires jazz post-Tanglewood [updated]

You don’t have to go far within the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts to find jazz these days. That's the case despite the Boston Symphony Orchestra organization’s bottom-line decision two years ago to pull the plug on its Tanglewood Jazz Festival, which had grown into an area jazz fixture over the prior 24 years.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Newport Jazz Festival 2014 - Consider the numbers with care

The main stage crowd, 2013
Be wary of some of the touted numbers leading up to, during and after next year’s edition of the Newport Jazz Festival. You’re likely to read a lot of conflicting and confusing figures.

Here’s why: 

2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the first festival, then called the American Jazz Festival, which was held July 17 and 18, 1954 at historic Newport Casino. It opened to the strains of Eddie Condon’s Dixieland band playing “Muskrat Ramble.”
 
But the 2014 event won't be the 60th edition of the festival, just as this year's was not the 59th. Next August 1-2-3 will mark the 50th edition of the Newport Jazz Festival to be held in Newport.  

The explanation is very simple.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Remembering Bill Evans - and his words of wisdom

Today would have been pianist Bill Evans' 84th birthday. He was born August 16, 1929 in Plainfield, New Jersey.

Evans preferred to speak through his music, but did open up substantially when he was a guest on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz public radio program on November 6, 1978, less than two years prior to his death (on September 15, 1980 in New York).

If you haven't heard the Concord Jazz  CD of the program (issued on its The Jazz Alliance imprint, TJA-12004), check it out. It is a must listen for serious jazz fans.

Ponder the photo here for more Evans wisdom. He's spot on.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

2013 Newport Jazz Festival - visual treats

Esparanza Spalding
An array of my images from this year's Newport Jazz Festival have been published by JazzTimes.com here and here, with more featuring the festival's New Orleans artists by Offbeat magazine.

Here is a blend of favorites from last weekend in Newport (in no particular order). There are quite a few more on at the sites referenced above .

A great jazz night - with a fine surprise

John Allmark
Bovi'sTavern is Rhode Island's home for big band jazz on Monday nights. Well, on most Monday nights. This past Monday, the bandleader threw us a pleasant curve.


Rather than bring his full jazz orchestra, John Allmark presented his octet - a brass-rich unit reminiscent of Phil Woods' Little Big Band.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Newport weekend - lots of jazz

I'll be doing contributing follow-up coverage of this year's Newport Jazz Festival (Presented by Natixis Global Asset Management), at JazzTimes.com, Offbeat magazine's website, and here at blog central, particularly with imagery.

Some Newport Jazz Festival fans
arrived by water
Festival attendance totaled17,200 between Friday night, Saturday and Sunday events. There was fine music to be had all weekend, but Sunday in particular stood out with set after set of top performances on every stage. Personal weekend favorites: guitarists Jim Hall and Julian Lage, singer Gregory Porter, pianists Jonathan Batiste, Michel Camilo and Chick Corea (with his new electro-acoustic band The Vigil), saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Joshua Redman, trumpeter Terence Blanchard and drummer Roy Haynes. Among the big bands: Eddie Palmieri's Salsa Orchestra.

Suffice it to say that Wayne Shorter's footprints were all over Newport this time around.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs from Tony Bennett /Dave Brubeck, Paolo Fresu and Roberto Magris...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Music from the cat in the hat

Gregory Porter
Think of all the jazz greats who have worn distinctive hats through the years. Count Basie, Lester Young, Abbey Lincoln, Jon Hendricks and Marcus Miller are but a few. Be sure to add rising vocal star Gregory Porter to the list. His ever-present style is a Kanga Summer Spiftfire cap worn over a head and neck wrap.

During my interview with Porter for a profile published in the August issue of Hot House, the singer-songwriter said the hat has become his “vibe” since he moved to the Big Apple eight years ago. Get his thoughts on his music – and the hat – here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Wonderful irony - jazz-style

John Hampton Wagner with
Tommy Goodman and bassist Dominic Mancini
You can never be sure what to expect at a jam session, but it is always nice when previously unknown talent rolls into the venue. Tonight, it was John Hampton Wagner, a Ramada Inn Tuesday jam session first-timer, who drew rave audience response with his takes on "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "What a Wonderful World."

Wagner, who goes by the nickname Hamp, is a singer and trumpeter from Dayton, Ohio, where he emcees Sunday Night Jazz Central Jams. After visiting southwest Florida regularly for the past 10 to 12 years, Wagner said he and his wife bought a home in Venice FL and plan to split their year between Ohio and southwest Florida.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thanks again, Dad...

As it turned out, this past Father’s Day was the last such holiday that I got to spend with my dad. He passed away peacefully in the hours of July 10, family at his side, after more than six months of significant health issues.
Doug Franckling
Father's Day 2013

It’s been said that a young boy’s first hero is his father. In most cases, I think that’s true. But I can only speak from experience. When we were much younger, before we went off to grammar school, a day seemed to last a lifetime rather than whiz by as they do now.
 
A good part of those long early 1950s weekdays was spent at play – and waiting for dad to come home from work so we could do what dads and sons do together. He’d putter around in the garage or fix things, and I’d be the apprentice with lots of questions. So many questions that my grandfather nicknamed me “Questions.” Or I’d hang around the volunteer fire station with Dad as he did what needed to be done in our village in upstate New York.

One Saturday, he introduced me to what became a lifelong love of freshwater fishing. We caught a 14-inch rainbow trout that morning. Actually, he caught it – but he told everyone else that I was the lucky angler. Dad was like that. But I was luckier than he knew.

He was a man of few words – but spoke volumes through his everyday examples of how to live a life. Work hard, support and nurture your family, enjoy your friends, stretch your creativity and interests…. and seize every opportunity to travel – with Mom. (They made it to all 50 states).

That was Dad. And I thank him again for those lessons.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Digging into the jazz side of Raphael Ravenscroft

It’s one of rock and roll’s most distinctive and memorable saxophone riffs – ever. In fact, many would argue the sax work was primarily responsible for transforming Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” into a mega hit.

Rafferty and producer Hugh Murphy had considered a variety of instruments for the tune’s long instrumental break. Young U.K. saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft got the call and laid down the bluesy riff for what became the featured track on Rafferty’s 1978 album City to City.  

"Baker Street" catapaulted Ravenscroft's productive career as a respected studio musician, saxophone technique book author, composer and film music scorer. After the Baker Street success, he went on to be featured on recordings by Alvin Lee, Pink Floyd, Robert Plant, Marvin Gaye, ABBA, Kim Carnes, Mike Oldfield, Mary Hopkin,  Bonnie Tyler, Roger Waters, Willie & The Poor Boys, and Phil Collins' Brand X, among others.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Keeping jazz relevant - tune by tune

I love it when jazz musicians find a way to make their music relevant to the moment. Take last night’s edition of the weekly jam session at the Ramada Inn in Venice FL. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs from Pascal Le Boeuf, Marc Cary and the Classic Jazz Trio…

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Newport 2013 - an abundance of jazz riches

The 2013 edition of the Newport Jazz Festival dilemma is fast approaching. The weekend of August 2, 3 and 4 offers more than 30 bands to check out of varying demographics and styles.

Other than the opening night festivities with Natalie Cole, her uncle, Freddy Cole, and the Bill Charlap trio at historic Newport Casino (the International Tennis Hall of Fame), the others are blended across three different stages on Saturday and Sunday at Fort Adams State Park overlooking Newport Harbor.

It's virtually impossible to catch more than a snippet of everything, with staggered starting times on all three stages. Some of us trot from one to another for a few songs of each. Others will camp in one location and savor a full set of a favorite musician or two. There is no set listener formula. Just do what works.

Fortunately there is music for virtually every jazz taste.

Here are some that I'm really anxious to check out:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

An Elgart alumni reunion of sorts, a nod to Shearing - maybe

Lew Gluckin and Len Murphy
Robbie Rose (piano), Dominic Mancini (bass)
Tonight's edition of the South County Jazz Club's weekly jam session at the Ramada Inn's Wave Grill in Venice FL had some interesting twists. These things always do - as the crowd and the music-making attendees vary from week to week
.
Two alumni of the Les Elgart Orchestra were on hand. Saxophonist Len Murphy and trumpeter Lew Gluckin (on flugelhorn this evening) took separate solo moments with the rhythm section during the opening set. They joined forces to open the second set, mixing it up very nicely on "Blue Monk."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs from Cécile McLorin Salvant, Giacomo Gates,  Wayne Shorter and Steve Slagle …

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Montreal Jazz Festival preview

The 34th annual Montreal International Jazz Festival is fast approaching. The dizzying event – which often seems like two festivals in one – runs June 28 through July 7. The schedule also features a couple of preliminary concerts on the 27th.

An outdoor evening show
There’s the vast array of indoor ticketed concerts. Then there are the 300 FREE concerts on 10 outdoor stages featuring some 3,000 musicians before the 10-day run concludes. Those sets run the gamut from jazz and blues to pop and world music.
 
Each year, the festival presents awards to significant artists for their contributions to their various forms of music. Here’s a rundown of the 2013 honorees:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Jazz Juvenocracy winds down in style

Bit Risner
Barring a reunion concert a few years down the road, Sarasota-area jazz fans likely have seen the last of the fine teenage band Jazz Juvenocracy - unless they travel to Europe for the septet's three-week jazz festival and club tour in July.
 
Jazz Juvenocracy closed out its 2012-13 concert series at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center Saturday night with Rhapsody, Rhythm and Romance on Saturday night at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center, then held its last weekly jam on the season on Sunday nighr at the Broadway Bar in downtown Sarasota.

Friday, May 17, 2013

For some, jazz nights can be a sentimental journey

The South County Jazz Club's weekly jam session  has settled in nicely at its new home at the Ramada Inn in Venice FL. There's something of interest each week, either a new instrumental pairing, a fine synergy between musicians, or a tune not heard in a while.

On Tuesday, May 14, there was a bit of each of those ingredients, culminating when two singers took to the stage at the same time. That is unusual for these jams, where
the vocalists tend to get scattered throughout the three sets most weeks.

Friday, May 10, 2013

9th Wine & Jazz Festival schedule set

Gerald Albright
The main acts are nailed down for the ninth annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival, which is scheduled February 20-22, 2014, with a main stage lineup of smooth jazz/instrumental pop saxophonists Mindi Abair, Richard Elliott and Gerald Albright, plus singer-guitarist Norman Brown.

Albright and Brown are the day’s closing act at Laishley Park along the picturesque Peace River / Charlotte Harbor waterfront. Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce President John Wright says all four will perform together at the finale.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs from Lisa Hilton, Anthony Branker and George Shearing…  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

JJA Jazz Awards announced in 28 categories.

The results are in – or at least those pertaining to musicianship. The Jazz Journalists Association today announced the winners in the 28 music categories of its 17th annual Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards.

The big winners for 2013 included saxophonist Wayne Shorter, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and Ryan Truesdell. Saxophonist Sonny Rollins was named "Emeritus Jazz Artist – Beyond Voting," which means he’s won so many times in various categories (artist of the year, saxophonist  of the year, album of the year, etc.) that he is now exempt from the balloting.

Full details and all category winners are posted here.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jazz under the banyan tree

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota FL is an outstanding home to wide-ranging plant life, and is renowned for its collections of bromeliads and epiphytes. On Sunday, it was also the site of outstanding jazz by saxophonist Tom Ellison's band Hip Pocket featuring singer June Garber. The concert was part of a Sunday afternoon music series that The Selby presents in the shade of a giant banyan tree on its 13-acre property.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Piano jazz: The full Monty

I had an extended conversation a couple of weeks ago with pianist Monty Alexander when preparing a profile for the May issue of Hot House, which is now posted online. Among the topics we covered:  the enduring popularity among some listeners (myself included) of his classic live trio recording, Montreux Alexander (MPS), from Switzerland’s 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival. I consider it one of the very best live trio recordings. It happened during a three-year tour with bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton, who had been classmates a couple of years earlier at Indiana University.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Colossus in the Catskills

Sonny Rollins
There’s an interesting reflection by jazz tenor saxophone titan Sonny Rollins in today’s Wall Street Journal that focuses on his move this year from bucolic Germantown across the Hudson River to Woodstock, an upstate New York town best known for its reputation as an artists' colony and being the namesake for the music festival held in nearby Bethel.

Creativity wasn’t the lure for Rollins, though it has been for many other jazz musicians who reside in the area.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sunday mornings with George...

Sunday mornings, with few exceptions, are the time I dig out a George Mesterhazy CD and relish the depth and breadth of his talent as I savor the day’s first cup of java and catchup on email or peruse the morning paper. It’s been that way for the better part of the past year. I find it a terrific balm that soothes the loss of this close friend and masterful musician. He died in his sleep on April 12, 2012, a few days after his 59th birthday.

I have many such CDs to choose from: George’s wonderful collaborations with Shirley Horn and Rebecca Parris, or more recently, Cat Conner, Lisa Lindsley, Gina Roché and Paula West, or, moving to the rock sphere, his work as a sideman (piano, B-3, Fender Rhodes and accordion) on Bob Lowery’s Mellencamp-esque 2000 CD Yellow Light.  

The one that draws me in most Sunday mornings is George’s trio session, One For My Baby, which he recorded in September 1999 at Peter Kontrimas’ Westwood MA studio with drummer Matt Gordy and bassist John Lockwood. It is exquisite. Each listening reveals new aspects in his playing and his personalization of nine jazz standards.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Straight-ahead jazz draws from an eclectic mix

Pianist Lenny Wilson's quintet went far beyond mining the usual jazz repertoire Friday when it concluded the South County Jazz Club's Venice (FL) Art Center concert series. You would expect a blend of tunes from the Great American Songbook, as well as jazz classics, but Wilson also threw in a bit of Chuck Mangione, a wild jazz romp through guitarist Mason Williams' 1968 hit "Classical Gas" (rarely heard today in any jazz setting), The Beatles hit "Can't Buy Me Love" and a solo-piano exploration of a "Les Miserables" medley (including "I Dreamed a Dream") with Dave Norman's fine drum work joining at the end.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

2012 at Newport: NOW we’ve heard it all…

After baking in the sun and wandering between the three scattered stages at the Newport Jazz Festival for seven or eight hours, nearly all in the crowd call it a day during or right after the final set at Fort Adams State Park. It’s time to quench one’s thirst, grab a meal and a shower, and head home or to local lodging - and rest up for Sunday’s equally long schedule.

But that’s not the case for everyone. Some 250 fans and a  nearly a dozen musicians dusted off and cleaned up - perhaps changing to something less casual - and headed for Marble House. One of Newport’s storied mansions on stately Bellevue Avenue, it was built between 1888 and 1892 as one of the Vanderbilt family’s “summer cottages.”

On Saturday April 4, 2012, Marble House was something else: the site of a fundraising gala for the Newport Festivals Foundation, which produces the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals under the leadership of the festivals’ founding producer (and foundation chairman), George Wein. The gala raised more than $200,000 to help the nonprofit carry on the festival tradition well into the future.

The gala featured an array of musical combinations not heard at Fort Adams – or anywhere else for that matter. And the tapes were running. The Festivals Foundation has released that recording, called Newport Jazz Festival Gala!, on ArtistShare.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Jazz from Naples hits Port Charlotte

"Sir John" Jeffrey
Monday night was Naples Night at the Charlotte Cultural Center as the Charlotte County Jazz Society wound down its 2012-13 concert season in strong fashion. The double bill featured two small groups that made the 70-mile trek north from Naples.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Digging deep into the Great American Songbook

Marlene VerPlanck
Singer Marlene VerPlanck closed out the Glenridge Performing Arts Center portion of the South County Jazz Club's robust 2012-13 concert season last night with a thoughtful mining of the Great American Songbook.

For the most part, her concert at the cozy state-of-the-art Sarasota FL venue featured Songbook pages turned less frequently but just as worthy of illumination as the warhorses that everybody else puts on their short lists.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Welcome to Jazz April

Yes, this is Jazz Appreciation Month. It is also the month in which UNESCO's 2nd annual International Jazz Day takes place.

Some might argue that every day ought to be Jazz Day. I won't quibble with that ideal.

But a month in which we are asked to help raise the general public's jazz consciousness is a great thing.

There are many ways to get involved - without any great fanfare.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

One value of the jazz jam session

André Roy
Jam sessions are great for a lot of things. One of my favorite values: the opportunity to hear musicians from near or far with whom one might not cross paths otherwise.
Over the past few months, I got a chance to hear Toronto guitarist André Roy at the South County Jazz Club's weekly jam, which has been held for the past year at Allegro Bistro in Venice FL.

Roy is a guitar modernist born of the rock era, and his beautiful guitar sound is infused with a rockish energy and intensity. Think John Scofield for comparisons.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bud Leeds' jazz quartet in Venice

Bud Leeds
Clarinetist Bud Leeds peppered Friday's Venice Art Center concert for the South County Jazz Club with tunes that became brief two- and three-song medleys. It showed interesting connections between material that was either thematic or of similar structure.  For example: "Autumn Leaves" shifted to "Lullabye of the Leaves" and then "Softly as a Morning Sunrise."

But he had a different motive  for the condensations.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Naples Jazz Orchestra with star firepower

 Byron Stripling and Doc Severinsen
Thousands jammed into Cambier Park in downtown Naples FL last night for what was the clear highlight of the Naples Jazz Orchestra's fourth season. The 16-piece big band's concert with two special guests - trumpeters Doc Severinsen and Byron Stripling - was also a high point since drummer Bob Stone organized the band four years ago.



Friday, March 22, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs from Patricia Barber, the Ian Carey Quintet +1, the Clayton Brothers and Scott Hamilton….

Monday, March 18, 2013

Toe-tapping Dixieland - Florida style with a touch of Hawaii

Bob Leary and Davy Jones
Bob Leary's sextet, also known as The Moral Imbeciles (so he said), had toes a-tappin' Monday night throughout the Charlotte Cultural Center at the Charlotte County Jazz Society's Artists Series.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Classic Jazz with good humor

Johnny Varro
Pianist Johnny Varro's Swing 7 concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Sarasota FL last night had a bit of holiday weekend humor - compliments of the leader.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

TSB spins a jazz gem

The Tierney Sutton Band
The Tierney Sutton Band opened a two-week mini-tour last night at Daniels Pavilion in Naples Fl. The show underscored the singer's mastery of taking familiar material and transforming it into something fresh and different.

Sutton’s band has been a musical family for more than 20 years, with finely honed collaborative arrangements and an intuitive spirit that enables them to shift gears in an instant when soloists offer new ideas.
 
My full review has been posted at jazztimes.com.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sarasota Jazz Festival - Gates and Lamb in spotlight

Giacomo Gates
Connecticut-based bop/vocalese singer Giacomo Gates took the 33rd annual Sarasota Jazz Festival by storm last night, sharing the evening's spotlight with former Ellington bassist John Lamb.

Lamb was a strong part of the headliner's rhythm section - after receiving the Jazz Club of Sarasota's Satchmo Award for his outstanding contributions to jazz as a performer and educator. After getting off the road, he settled in St. Petersburg in 1967 and spent nearly 30 years teaching in the Pinellas County School System. He is still one of the area's most in-demand bass players.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Englewood jazz series concludes first season in fine form

Valerie Gillespie
The South County Jazz Club wound up the first season of its Englewood Art Center concert series with Friday afternoon's performance by Valerie Gillespie's trio. Gillespie is a Tampa Bay-area saxophonist who has also developed into a fine singer. When she's not singing or soloing, she also can't resist dancing to the groove set by her bandmates, in this case pianist Jeff Phillips and drummer Dave Rudolph.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Piano jazz x 2

Mac Chrupcala and Mike Renzi have been crossing paths longer than each cares to count.
Mike Renzi

They began working jazz clubs in the 1960s in Providence, RI - occasionally swapping favorite venue gigs. Chrupcala also spent most of his adult career teaching music in the Newport School System, while Renzi went on to great acclaim in New York City as musical director for "All My Children" and "Sesame Street" - and accompanist to a trove of great singers, including Mel Torme, Maureen McGovern and Jack Jones.


Mac Chrupcala
Both men now winter in Florida. They crossed paths again this afternoon at the Venice FL Art Center in a two-keyboard concert, with strong support from bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Dave Pruyn.