Monday, November 20, 2017

Bud Leeds goes Bob-Bob-Bobbying along

Clarinetist Bud Leeds was in fine company - and good spirits - for the South County Jazz Club's first concert of the 2017-2018 season on Monday, November 20.

Bud Leeds
His quartet included multi-instrumentalist Bob MacInnis, Bob Leary on banjo, rhythm guitar and occasional vocals, and piano marvel Bobby van Deusen. (Leeds could have named the band Three Bobs and a Bud.

Together, they delved deeply into ragtime, Louis Armstrong fare and other classic jazz staples.The free-and-easy repertoire included "Struttin' With Some Barbecue," cornetist Wild Bill Davison's theme song "I Never New," "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?," "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee," Bix Beiderbecke's "Singin' the Blues," Scott Joplin's "Rose Leaf Blues," and "Back Home in Indiana," among others.

Bobby van Deusen
Van Deusen, a master of the ragtime and stride piano styles, reached a few decades ahead from his usual repertoire to include "That's All, and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (by request), along with a stunning solo take on the ballad "Laura." The Pensacola resident was a fixture in New Orleans for many years, working with Pete Fountain, Al Hirt, The Dukes of Dixieland and on the Delta Queen riverboat. Leary worked with him on that latter gig.

Bud Leeds, Bob MacInnis
MacInnis was featured primarily on cornet but he also doubled with Leeds on clarinet on several tunes. The clear concert highlight was their twin-clarinet take on a medley that segued from "My Mother's Eyes" to the poignant Sidney Bechet classic "Si Tu Vois Ma Mere" (If You See My Mother).

Bob Leary
Leary's fine vocal takes on "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" were a stark contrast with the corny tunes that he seems to sneak into all his performances, whether or not he's leading the band.

This time Leary included 1947's "Huggin' and Chalkin'" and his exaggerated falsetto take on The Ink Spots pop hit "I Don't Need to Set the World on Fire." They lose their humorous impact the second or third time you've heard him. For me, this was number four.

The matinee concert was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice. 
Van Deusen, Leary, Leeds, MacInnis

Looking ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through January.
  • Saturday, November 25 – Guitarists John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring’s Meeting of the Spirits tour, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 29 – 20th anniversary tour of Dave Koz Christmas, teaming the alto saxophonist with fellow smoothies David Benoit, Rick Braun, Peter White and Selina Albright. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 2 –the Dan Heck Blues and Truth Sextet, featuring trumpeter Dan Miller, performs the Music of Charles Mingus and Oliver Nelson. CAPA at the Wang Center, Naples. 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday, December 4 – Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Orchestra holiday concert featuring the finest players from Miami, Orlando, Tampa and SW Florida, North Naples United Methodist Church. 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 9 – Trumpeter Bobby Shew is featured with The Naples Philharmonic Youth Jazz Orchestra. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 4 p.m. free.
  • Monday, December 11 – Bebop saxophonist Greg Abate’s quartet, Charlotte County Jazz Society concert series, William H Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County, Port Charlotte, 7 p.m.
    Greg Abate
  • Wednesday, December 13 – Singer Carmen Bradford guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s concert series at Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, December 15 – Guitarist Nate Najar's Jazz Holiday with Chuck Redd, Jeff Rupert, John Lamb, Mark Feinman and James Suggs. A South County Jazz Club concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota. 8 p.m.  
Nicki Parrott
  • Monday, January 8 – Joe Delaney and Friends in concert at the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s Latin Jazz Night. William H Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County, Port Charlotte, 7 p.m.
  • Wed, January 10 – Ramsey Lewis & John Pizzarelli in concert with their Straighten Up and Fly Right tribute to Nat King Cole. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 24 – Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon with the Ed Metz-Rossano Sportiello-Nicki Parrott trio. A South County Jazz Club-Venice Institute for the Performing Arts concert. Venice Performing Arts Center. 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 27 – Singer Kenny Washington is featured with the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Quintet, Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. Fort Myers, 8 p.m.
Several local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, 88 Keys Florida and The Turtle Club in Punta Gorda, Fandango in Sarasota, The Roadhouse and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Ft. 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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tapping into the lingering love for swing jazz

Johnny Varro played with the elder statesmen of classic swing jazz  in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, working with Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, Roy Eldridge and Pee Wee Russell to name but a few. Now at 87, he is one of the elder statesmen.

Johnny Varro
Pianist Varro returned to Port Charlotte with the Florida edition of his Swing Seven band on Monday, November 13. It was the band’s third appearance in five years in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series.

The band included saxophonists Terry Myers (alto and clarinet) and Rodney Rojas (tenor), trumpeter Charlie Bertini, trombonist Jeff Lego, bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Eddie Metz Jr. The roster was identical to Varro’s October 2012 visit. A couple of subs were aboard in the band’s November 2014 concert.
Rodney Rojas

Varro is the master of genteel swing, both as a player and arranger of classic jazz standards. This time, he also shared two originals, the lovely ballad “Afterglow” and “Hag’s Blues,” an intricate and spirited piece that he wrote in honor of Bob Haggart. Neuenschwander's bass artistry was featured on this tip-of-the-hat to the bassist, arranger and composer who rose to prominence as a member of Bob Crosby’s Bobcats.
Mark Neuenschwander

The evening’s repertoire leaned heavily on material from the 1930s Duke Ellington Orchestra and the 1940s and ‘50s Count Basie band book. The Ellington-related material included Duke’s “Just Squeeze Me,” “Ring Dem Bells,” “Black and Tan Fantasy” and “Stompy Jones,” which he wrote as a feature for alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, plus Hodges’ own “You Need to Rock.” The Basie-associated material included Benny Moten’s “Moten Swing,” rhythm guitarist Freddie Green’s “Corner Pocket” and Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings.”
Charlie Bertini

Varro’s arrangements feature crisp yet intricate horn lines. He is one of the most generous bandleaders around when it comes to giving sidemen a lot of space to explore the music. That resulted in more than a few stunning solos, including a couple by Bertini with ultra-high notes that turned his face beet red.

The Brooklyn native’s easy-going banter served him well when memory failed as he introduced a couple of song titles or mixed up some composers during the generous 19-song program. There were more than a few chuckles when he introduced the 1926 Artie Shaw hit “Cross Your Heart” as “Cross My Heart” and said it was written by “somebody.” (Lewis Gensler wrote it). In another senior moment, mixing up his Bennys, the pianist attributed “Pom Pom” to trombonist Benny Morton. It was composed by Benny Carter.
Eddie Metz Jr.

Concert highlights included Myers’ alto sax feature on “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” Rojas’ biting and intense playing on “Stompy Jones,” Lego on trombonist Vic Dickenson’s “Constantly” and Metz’s drum feature on “It’s a Wonderful World.” Everyone in the band was featured in Varro’s extended exploration of Duke’s exotic “Black and Tan Fantasy.”

A two-saxophone feature, reminiscent of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, had Myers and Rojas going head-to-head on Cohn’s “Brandy and Beer.” Their shared intensity, as they handed the melody back-and-forth and doubled at times, made this one a rousing concert closer.

About 250 people turned out for this event at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s William H Wakeman III Theater.
Varro, Lego, Bertini, Neuenschwander, Myers, Rojas, Metz