Bassist Bruce Wallace opened the South County Jazz Club's 2014-15 concert season Friday afternoon with a top-notch trio whose members had never worked together in this personnel grouping. It featured guitarist Larry Camp and drummer Marty Morell, best known in jazz circles for his seven-year stint in pianist Bill Evans' trio from 1968 to 1975.
Musically, it was a fine, and poignant, afternoon at the Venice (FL) Art Center. This was Wallace's third consecutive season opener for the jazz club. Powerhouse pianist Kenny Drew Jr. had been pencilled in for the gig - until his unexpected death on August 3.
Evelyn Thomas, best known for 1980s hit songs in Europe's disco
and Hi-NRG dance club genre, is revisiting her roots as a singer. While not
abandoning her dance music work, she has gone back to jazz. And she’s loving
made her local jazz debut Saturday night, September 13, at JD’s Bistro &
Grille in Port Charlotte FL with her backing trio. She drew an enthusiastic audience for her blend
of material from the canon of jazz standards, the Great American Songbook, and
what we might call new standard fare: pop-associated material richly deserving
of jazz treatments. Last night, JD’s had the feel and temperature of a fine New
York supper club, a venue where Thomas and her backing trio plan to be Saturday
spot-on vocals and her approach to her material reveal her influences from her early years
as developing singer: particularly Nancy Wilson. The second set included Murray
Grand’s haunting, lovelorn ballad “Guess Who I Saw Today,” which was a jazz
vocal hit for Wilson in 1960. Other treats: her takes on the Shirley Horn- and
Joe Williams-associated “Here’s to Life,” and one of those newer standards, “When October Goes” a 1984 Barry Manilow hit that combined his music with
lyrics by the late Johnny Mercer.
has lived in southwest Florida for the past 21 years, using Port Charlotte as
home base for her occasional disco-related tours to Europe as well as U.S. gigs.
But she hadn’t immersed herself in the rather healthy local jazz scene – until now.
“I still love that world (disco and Hi-NRG),”
Thomas told me. “When they call, I’ve got to go (back to the world of dance
clubs and disco balls), but I’m loving this too. I never left jazz, but now I’m
doing more of it."
trio included her husband, Anthony Simpson (piano), Mark Fitzpatrick (electric bass) and Bob Ryan (drums). Their support
a native son of Woodstock NY, best known to many over the past five decades as the
namesake of a rock music festival that was held 60 miles away as the crows fly, an
announcement this week came as welcome news.