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.

NOVEMBER
  • 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
DECEMBER
  • 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.

JANUARY
  • 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.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Keyboard artistry on parade

You'd have to look far and wide to find anyone matching Bobby van Deusen's talents at the piano. He's a master of a wide range of jazz styles, possesses fine classical chops and astonishing technique.
Bobby van Deusen

All of that - and then some - was on display Friday, November 23 at the South County Jazz Club's matinee season concert opener in Venice FL. 

Pensacola-based van Deusen, a former member of the Barbary Coast Dixieland Band  who also paid his dues backing trumpeter Al Hirt in New Orleans, can dig into the styles of many piano greats. But even when he mines those distinctive sounds, he quickly adds a special something that makes the tune his own for the moment.

Ragtime, stride, American Songbook ballads, instrumental jazz classics, bossa nova, show tunes and movie themes are all fair game here.

Here are just a few examples of gems within his 19-tune afternoon, divided nearly equally in his two sets at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice:
  • Van Deusen's opener, Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk," began with a few bars of the Brubeck piano sound, then quickly shifted to something darker and bluesy, as if Oscar Peterson was swinging through the house. 
  • "Send in the Clowns" was an unusual treat. Van Deusen played the thickly-chorded tune with only his left hand.
  • Anthony Newley's "Can You Read My Mind (Love Theme from Superman)," alternated between moments of keyboard thunder and delicacy.
  • Midway through Fats Waller's classic "Honeysuckle Rose," ven Deusen let the song evolve into a seamless string of familiar holiday melodies, including "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells." Later in the concert, he added some Vince Guaraldi feel to a beautiful rendition of "Silver Bells."
  • Van Deusen dug deep into "Poinciana," which Ahmad Jamal turned into an instrumental jazz classic in the late 1950s. But on this occasion, he went back to the tune's original 1930s arrangements, transforming it with a darker, pensive exploration of the melody rather than Jamal's more-familiar approach.
  • A romp through "Bourbon Street Parade" let the pianist explore a bit of Professor Longhair's R&B-based sound before strutting off with his own Crescent City feel.
The afternoon also included some Scott Joplin,Earl "Fatha" Hines, Erroll Garner, George Gershwin and Johnny Guarnieri material, as well as a six-minute condensed version of van Deusen's crowd-pleasing "Phantom of the Opera" medley.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A two-phase classic jazz journey

Trombonist Bill Allred and his Classic Jazz Band brought their Charlotte County Jazz Society audience on a musical journey, on Monday, November 12, that explored music rooted in New Orleans, moved up the Mississippi River, and then over the highways to dig into the big band phenomenon that took the country by storm starting in the 1930s.

Bill Allred
Terry Myers
In its fourth visit to the CCJS concert series, Allred's band included reed player Terry Myers, trumpeters Charlie Bertini and Randy Sandke and trombonist Corey Paul, pianist Randy Morris, bassist Jay Mueller and drummer Eddie Metz Jr. It was the Port Charlotte debut for Paul and Sandke. Long a fixture on the New York mainstream jazz scene, Sandke recently moved to Venice.

Nearly all of the evening's first set focused on New Orleans, quite logical since the Crescent City was the birthplace of jazz. It included Morris' solo piano take on vintage ragtime, and rollicking versions of "Bourbon Street Parade" and "Basin Street Blues" (featuring vocals by Morris and Allred respectively), the Dixieland classic "Muskrat Ramble" and Myers' tip of the hat to late clarinetist Pete Fountain on "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans."   
Randy Sandke, Charlie Bertini
Bertini and Sandke were great musical foils for each other, playing both unison lines and trading phrases, particularly on "Bourbon Street Parade." The band's take on "When The Saints Go Marching In" opened and closed with a gospel tinge but amped up the swing in the middle portion.


Randy Morris
Moving up the mighty Mississippi by riverboat seemed natural for this musical program, since Allred's father played piano, banjo and guitar on the riverboats. So along came a river-themed ditty and W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues." The band closed the first set with Glenn Miller's "In the Mood," a teaser for the music still to come.

The horn section
"Bugle Call Rag," popularized by Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, opened the second set. This version featured all-star drummer Metz, who also turned in a jaw-dropping solo on the closer, Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing." 

The Count Basie songbook was showcased as the band played Neal Hefti's "Late Date" and "The Kid from Red Bank" (written for Red Bank NJ native William "Count" Basie), as well as "April in Paris." Miller's "String of Pearls" preceded a splendid piano trio version of "Rosetta." 
Eddie Metz Jr.

At mid-set, Metz and Mueller provided the evening's swinging, visual treat on Bob Crosby and the Bobcats' "Big Noise from Winnetka." After the opening riffs, the horn players left the stage as Metz played a bit of the rhythm standing in front of his drum kit, then used his sticks on the upright bass and its strings, complementing Mueller's solo artistry.

In ensemble performance and wide-ranging instrumental and vocal solos, this little big band was in fine form all night. The concert drew more than 300 fans to the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's William H. Wakeman III Theater.
Morris, Myers, Sandke, Bertini, Mueller, Allred, Paul, Metz

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Honoring Art Blakey's multi-faceted jazz legacy

Dan Miller, Lew Del Gatto
Drummer Art Blakey had a profound impact on jazz that has stretched from the 1940s, through bebop's 1950s and '60s heyday, right up to the present. The music associated with his Jazz Messengers band and his legacy as a bandleader were celebrated by the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto quintet on Sunday, November 11, in Naples FL.

And what a grand legacy it is. Blakey, who passed away in 1990, was without a doubt the finest molder of other future bandleaders who passed through his band. And there were scores of them. Benny Golson, Horace Silver, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Johnny Griffin, Chuck Mangione, James Williams, Freddie Hubbard, Keith Jarrett, Wayne Shorter, and on and on and on.

As Williams once told me, being a Jazz Messenger was on-the-job training for the skills needed to lead a band. "He really did give us a sense of responsibility. It wasn’t just Art Blakey's band. He in essence made all of us leaders of the group at various times. He might tell Billy Pierce to decide what tunes to play that night. He’d tell me to announce the program. He’d tell Wynton to go to the club owner, collect the money and pay the guys. He’d tell Bobby Watson to call rehearsal, when we had a rare rehearsal. These wouldn’t be permanent assignments. It would vary, so each one of us would have to do certain things that Art knew would be very important for us to survive in this very fickle business.”

In an afternoon concert at East Naples United Methodist Church, trumpeter Miller and tenor saxophonist Del Gatto joined forces with bassist Richard Drexler, drummer Marty Morell and pianist Brandon Goldberg, a 12-year-old from the Miami area whose musical savvy will make your jaw drop.
Brandon Goldberg
They performed seven classics from the Jazz Messengers repertoire: Golson's "Blues March" and "Are You Real," Kenny Dorham's "Prince Albert," Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'," Gigi Gryce's "Minority," Silver's "Nica's Dream" and Shorter's "Lester Left Town." 

Goldberg was spotlighted on "Moanin'" - which he updated with a healthy dose of off-kilter melodic touches - and on a piano trio version of another Shorter tune, "One by One." The way he has absorbed the jazz canon - and puts his own skillful stamp on it through solos and comping - is a blessing for the genre. At one point, Miller ended one of his solos with a few melodic twists that involved some nifty three-note phrases, and there was Goldberg, tossing them right back to him with logic and ease.
Art Blakey, NYC, 1985

Miller shared a bit of Blakey's legacy with the audience, explaining that the Pittsburgh native,  actually started out as a pianist. As the  trumpeter tells it, Blakey was married and had a child by the time he was 14. He was working double shifts in a coal mine and a steel mill, and still found time to play piano at night in a mob-run speakeasy. One night, the trio scheduled to follow him didn't have a drummer. The club owner told Blakey - at gunpoint - that he was playing drums that night, even though he had never done so before. His skill developed quickly, and by the early 1940s he was working in New York.

"Art had an infectious feel to his playing," Miller said. "The power, the swing and the energy were there. You could feel the drums in your bones. That's why we salute him and his music."
Del Gatto, Miller, Goldberg, Morell, Drexler