Friday, December 14, 2018

In the holiday spirit, jazz style.

Guitarist Nate Najar’s Jazz Holiday has become a seasonal tradition in Southwest Florida. He started the concert in St. Petersburg, where the 13th annual edition was held last night at The Palladium Theater's Hough Hall.

Ex-Ellington bassist John Lamb, drummer Mark Feinman and trumpet marvel James Suggs are regulars in this event, with Nate drawing on an array of visiting talent to expand the group. 

This year's special guests were tenor saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist and singer Adrian Cunningham, an Aussie jazz musician now based in New York, and alto saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky, a Russian-born musician now living in Paris. Brazilian singer Daniela Soledade, who recently moved to the Tampa Bay area, joined the band for several numbers.

The evening coursed between holiday fare, jazz chestnuts and bossa novas. My favorites included the band's take on "Mistletoe and Holly," first recorded in 1957 by its co-writer, Frank Sinatra, and their idyllic version of Gil Evans arrangement of Claude Thornhill's theme, "Snowfall."

Nate brings the holiday cheer to Sarasota tonight, without Baevsky in the lineup. This concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center, is sponsored by the South County Jazz Club. This will be at least the sixth year he has done this event in Sarasota.

Here are a few images from Thursday's fine event, which drew a crowd of about 500.
Lamb, Najar, Feinman, Cunningham, Baevsky, Suggs
Baevsky, Suggs

Adrian Cunningham 
Daniela Soledade, Adrian Cunningham 

Lamb, Najar, Cunningham 
Najar, Lamb, Cunningham, Baevsky

Thursday, December 13, 2018

CDs of Note – Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Bootsie Barnes & Larry McKenna, Al Basile, Amy Cervini, the Uli Geissendoerfer trio and Christopher Hollyday….

Bootsie Barnes & Larry McKenna, The More I See You (Cellar Live)
Philadelphia has always been a hotbed of jazz. The city that has produced more than its fair share of excellent musicians – and remains the epicenter of the B-3 organ tradition. This project teams Philly’s two reigning tenor sax titans – Bootsie Barnes and Larry McKenna – in an organ quartet with B-3 player Lucas Brown and drummer Byron “Wookie” Landham. The two octogenarian saxophonists are in fine form here on a mix of Great American Songbook standards and jazz chestnuts, as well as a pair of originals. They go head-to-head on seven of nine tracks, with McKenna featured solo on “You’ve Changed” and Barnes on Kurt Weill’s “My Ship.” The give-and-take by all of the band members in excellent. My favorite tracks are the two originals: Barnes’ hard-swinging “Three Miles Out” and McKenna’s closer, “Don’t Redux the Reflux.”

Al Basile, Me & the Originator (Sweetspot) 
Singer-songwriter, cornetist and poet Al Basile has long straddled the line between traditional jazz and the blues. This latest recording, principally a blues project, can best be categorized as “beyond category.” Basile took a dozen of his poems, then wrote songs related to or inspired by them. Another chapter of the story if you will. And he preceded them all with a clever story about a trunk found in an attic – filled with poems by an anonymous wordsmith he calls “the Originator.” They are poems that the protagonist in this tale turned into music. On Me & the Originator, each song by Al and his band is followed by him narrating the poem related to it. This is best listened to straight-through to savor its full effect. One tune in particular stands out. “She Made Me Believe It” will have you sitting up to listen close and chuckling at its clever message. That one got me, but believe me, they’re all gems. Longtime collaborator Duke Robillard produced the session and plays guitar throughout.

Amy Cervini, No One Ever Tells You (Posi-Tone)
It’s bluesy, gritty and swinging. And it’s one of the finest jazz vocal projects I’ve heard in a while. Amy Cervini’s latest CD, No One Ever Tells You, digs into songs about love, despair and strength. Her exquisite blues-tinged takes on a wide range of popular songs and blues standards are bolstered by the band here. It features guitarist Jesse Lewis, pianist Michael Cabe, bassist Matt Aronoff and drummer Jared Schonig. B-3 player Gary Versace adds much on four tracks, including Cervini’s opening original, “I Don’t Know” and a organ-vocals duet on “One For My Baby (and One More For the Road).” She’s turned gems from the songbooks of Blossom Dearie, Lyle Lovett, Percy Mayfield, Frank Sinatra and Bessie Smith, and others, into her own anthem.

Uli Geissendoerfer Trio, Long Way Home (Vegas) 
There is something special about the power trio in jazz, consisting of high-energy players who blend their talents into something even greater than the sum of their three parts.The resulting music is often intense, swings likes mad – but is also capable of delicacy and nuance when the situation calls for it. Such is this project from Las Vegas-based pianist Uli Geissendorfer’s project with bassist Dave Ostrem and drummer Angelo Stokes. Favorite tracks: the bluesy “Urban Cowboy” and the quirky “Monk’s Mouse”. The project opens and closes with Beatles material that has some Geissendorfer twists. The opener pairs “Here Comes the Sun” with a vamp extension of the pianist’s design. The closer makes a medley of “Blackbird” and “Come Together” that blends mixed meters and other juxtapositions.

Christopher Hollyday, Telepathy (Jazzbeat) 
Alto saxophonist Christopher Hollyday had a significant profile as a teenage jazz prodigy from the mid 1980s into the early ‘90s. Then the hard bopper vanished from the jazz scene. He married, moved from New England to San Diego and became a music educator. Now he’s out of the classroom and is performing again, often in groups with trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. This is his first recording in more than 25 years. Telepathy draws its title from the musical connection he has with Castellanos. Together they soar in unison and separate solos on a half-dozen jazz chestnuts and popular standards, supported by pianist Joshua White, bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Tyler Kreutel. The bop tracks include Freddie Hubbard’s “One of a Kind,” Bud Powell’s “Hallucinations” and Charlie Parker’s “Segment.” The standards are “Everything Happens to Me,” “Autumn in New York” and “I’ve Got the World on a String.” This is a dandy.

Here are some other 2018 gems you should check out, which I haven’t had time to review this year:

  • Antonio Adolfo, Encontros (AAM)
  • Bobby Broom, Soul Fingers (MRI Entertainment)
  • Rob Dixon, Coast to Crossroads (self-produced)
  • Jared Gold, Emergence (Strikezone)
  • Brad Goode Quintet with Ernie Watts, That’s Right! (Origin)
  • Carlos Henriquez, Dizzy Con Clave (Rodbros)
  • Art Hirahara, Sunward Bound (Posi-Tone)
  • Dan Moretti, Invoke (Dodicilune)
  • Ben Paterson, Live at Van Gelder’s (Cellar Live)
  • Dafnis Prieto Big Band, Back to the Sunset (Dafnison)
  • John Proulx, Say It (self-produced)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Honoring the creativity and spirit of a key jazz era

The late 1950s and the 1960s were fertile years in the development of the hard-bop style. That incubation was so dominated by the players of one jazz record label that it has become known as The Blue Note Era because the Blue Note label’s bands and future bandleaders had an indelible impact on modern jazz.

Lew Del Gatto, Dan Miller
Trumpeter Dan Miller and tenor saxophonist Lew Del Gatto celebrated that style and spirit on Monday, December 10, performing with their rock-solid quintet for the Charlotte County Jazz Society. While Miller has performed at CCJS concerts in the past, this was the first appearance by Del Gatto, pianist John O’Leary, bassist Brandon Robertson and drummer Paul Gavin. Del Gatto spent 25 years in NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” Band and was a first-call New York studio musician for many years.

With finesse and firepower, they dug into the music that mostly originated in the bands of drummer Art Blakey and pianist Horace Silver, but also touched on saxophonists Tina Brooks and Wayne Shorter, and trumpeter Kenny Dorham before ending the generous evening with three classics composed by pianist Herbie Hancock.
John O'Leary

The material included Benny Golson’s “Blues March” and “Are You Real?,” and pianist Bobby Timmons’ classic “Moanin’,” first recorded when they were in Blakey’s Jazz Messengers band; Silver’s “Song for My Father,” “Strollin’” and “Peace”; Brooks’ exotic “Gypsy Blue” which first appeared on trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s Open Sesame album; and Dorham’s “Blue Bossa.”

Brandon Robertson
Miller - a high-octane veteran of the Harry Connick Jr., Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson bands and the Wynton Marsalis-led Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra – used keen and sometimes humorous anecdotes to put each song and its composer into context. He described Silver’s “Peace” as one of the most beautiful ballads in jazz, adding that “its message is as important today as when he wrote it.” Del Gatto underscored that notion with a probing and sweet tenor solo.
Paul Gavin
The band also dug into “Lester Left Town,” which Shorter wrote in the wee hours after learning that saxophonist Lester Young had died. The evening closed with Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” which was a mega-hit for Mongo Santamaria, “Maiden Voyage” and “Cantaloupe Island.”

All five players were in synch all night long, whether soloing themselves or comping behind the other soloists. The ensemble playing – and the unexpected accents that Gavin, O’Leary and Robertson added at various moments – added much to this splendid night. It underscored that this hard-bop sound remains vibrant 60 or so years after its incubation.

The concert drew a crowd of nearly 300 to the William H. Wakeman III Theater at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County in Port Charlotte.
O'Leary, Del Gatto, Robertson, Miller, Gavin

Friday, December 7, 2018

Digging into the boisterous side of the tenor sax

Bokulic, Duffy
Saxophonist Paul Duffy has been influenced mightily by the "Texas tenor" style of saxophone - the brawny, honking, at-times boisterous R&B-tinged sound made famous by Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Buddy Tate, David "Fathead" Newman and King Curtis. That's quite a stretch for a versatile musician who grew up - and developed his passion for jazz - in Dublin, Ireland.

That sound was on fine display on Friday, December 7, in the South County Jazz Club's matinee concert series in Venice FL. Duffy's quartet featured the leader on tenor and alto saxes, trumpet and vocals, Matt Bokulic on piano, Patrick Bettison on bass and Johnny Moore on drums. With range and soulfulness, Duffy's singing was also a strength throughout the program.

The afternoon's material hopscotched through the Great American Songbook and the jazz canon to The Beatles and Hoagy Carmichael.

Given the holiday season at hand, Duffy's instrumental opener on Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" included fleeting references to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and later in his solo, to "Jingle Bells." 

Bokulic quickly got into the spirit in another way. On "They Can't Take That Away From Me," the pianist seamlessly dropped in a line from "How are Things in Glocca Mora?" from the 1947 Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow.

Favorite moments:
  • The band's take on Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" brought to the fore the depth and passion in Duffy's tenor sax style.
    Duffy on "Cantaloupe Island"
  • Duffy switched back and forth between the tenor and his trumpet,on Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island,"  often starting a musical phrase with one and ending with the other.
  • Bettison was featured beautifully on jazz harmonica on "The Days of Wine and Roses."
  • Mongo Santamaria's "Watermelon Man" saw Duffy dig out his alto sax for a novel treatment of the tune, riffing the melody on alto and tenor sax simultaneously but shifting back to tenor for his solos. It was well done, as in this case, done sparingly. You wouldn't want to hear a full afternoon if it.
    "Watermelon Man"
  • The quartet's version of Wayne Shorter's jazz chestnut "Footprints" was a tour de force, reflecting just how locked in the four players were on this gig.
The afternoon at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice closed with the band's swinging take on "Danny Boy." Not a surprise given Duffy's roots. What many may find surprising is that he only learned traditional Irish music after he moved here in the early 1980s and opened a Sarasota bar called the Irish Rover.

Matt Bokulic, Patrick Bettison, Paul Duffy, Johnny Moore

Monday, November 26, 2018

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.

  • Wednesday, November 28 – Guitarist Romero Lubambo guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2018-2019 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.

Lew Del Gatto, Dan Miller
  • Sunday, December 9 – Manhattan Transfer, Herb Alpert & Lani Hall in concert. Artis-Naples’ Hayes Hall. Naples, 7 p.m.
  • Monday, December 10 – The Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Quintet performs in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series. William H. Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 12 – Alto saxophonist Vincent Herring guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2018-2019 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 13 – Guitarist Nate Najar’s annual Jazz Holiday concert features saxophonist Adrian Cunningham. Hough Hall, Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg. 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, December 14 – Guitarist Nate Najar’s annual Jazz Holiday concert features saxophonist Adrian Cunningham. A South County Jazz Club concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center. Sarasota. 8 p.m.
  • Nate Najar
  • Sunday, December 16 – Trumpeter Byron Stripling is special guest performer at the Naples Philharmonic Youth Jazz Orchestra’s winter concert. Daniels Pavilion, 3 p.m. free.

  • Sunday, January 6 – Trumpeter Randy Sandke quintet. A South County Jazz Club concert. Venice Presbyterian Church. 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 13 – Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen’s Four Others band digs into the classic sound of Woody Herman’s Four Brothers sax section. A South County Jazz Club concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center. Sarasota. 4 p.m. (time change)
  • Monday, January 14 – The South Carolina-based Mike Frost Band performs in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series. William H. Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 16 – Tenor saxophonist Harry Allen guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2018-2019 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, January 18 – Singer Carla Cook performs with the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Quintet in the Jazzy Nights concert series. Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Fort Myers. 7 p.m.
  • Friday, January 25 – Pink Martini brings its zany take on jazz and swing to Artis-Naples’ Hayes Hall. Naples, 8p.m.
  • Veronica Swift, Jeff Rupert
  • Sunday, January 27 – The Jeff Rupert quartet with singer Veronica Swift. A South County Jazz Club concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center. Sarasota. 2 p.m.
Several local venues (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, 88 Keys Florida and The Blue Turtle in Punta Gorda, Amore, the Art Ovation Hotel and the Starlite Room in Sarasota, The Roadhouse and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Fort 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.