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.

Jim  Cullum, Allan Vaché, Don Mopsick

The septet that performed in Sarasota and at the Broward Center for the Arts in Ft. Lauderdale the prior night included two Florida musicians who are Cullum band distinguished alumni. Clarinetist Allan Vaché spent 18 years in the San Antonio-based band before moving to the Orlando area 22 years ago. Bassist Don Mopsick was with the Cullum outfit for 19 years before concluding that tenure in 2009 and moving to southwest Florida.
The band also included John Sheridan on piano, Mike Pittsley on trombone, Kevin Hess on drums and Clint Baker on rhythm guitar.

The evening's repertoire ranged from Jelly Roll Morton and Bix Beiderbecke to Benny Carter and George Gershwin, material that was jazz standard fare before 1940.

Shining moments: Sheridan's solo piano feature on Beiderbecke's "In A Mist," Vaché's spotlight on Gershwin's "The Man I Love," the band's playful romp through Carter's "Krazy Kapers" and its mining of "Bullfrog Blues," a 1920s blues tune on which Mopsick's bass notes mimicked the bullfrog. Also strong: Cullum's full-band arrangement of Jelly Roll's "Freakish," which he said previously had been known only as a piano piece.

The Jim Cullum Jazz Band

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