Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jazz at the end of the dirt road

(updated with times and Web links)
Regulars turn out in large numbers for a free three-hour Tuesday night jazz jam, at Snook Haven in Venice, FL. The no-frills restaurant, footsteps from the scenic Myakka River, is literally at the end of a dirt road canopied by Spanish moss. In its storied past, the venue was a smugglers’ hideout during prohibition, a speakeasy and brothel and the jungle setting for some Hollywood films. Snook Haven was formally established in 1948 as a fishing camp. Today it features the small restaurant, a variety of indoor and outdoor musical events, cabins, boat launch and tours of the Myakka River and Charlotte Harbor.
Fanning, Felman, Mancini, Miro

The jam sessions are the weekly glue for the South County Jazz Club, which was formed in July 2010 to support musicians and provide live listening opportunities for fans in and around Englewood, North Port and Venice on Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Jazz Club president Morrie Trumble says the organization has swelled in less than 18 months from its five founding board member to more than 200 people. The club sponsors some 70 events a year. They include the jam sessions, 11 formal concerts at the Venice Art Center, and seven Eat to the Beat concerts held one Sunday afternoon a month October through April) at La Stanza, an Italian restaurant in neighboring Englewood.

Boffa, Goodman

Trumble says Snook Haven management offered the rustic venue as a jam session home last year and the weekly event (from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.) has proved to its busiest night on average. Some of the participating musicians are year-round residents and some are so-called snowbirds who reside here in the winter months.

Last night’s fine rhythm section included pianist Tommy Goodman, 86, a veteran jazz arranger and conductor who once worked for Benny Goodman (no relation); busy local bassist Dominic Mancini; and drummer Dane Hassan, a retired Connecticut state trooper who now calls Florida his home. Goodman recently changed his status from snowbird to full-time resident.

The three-hour jam featured a changing cast of musicians performing standards from the American Songbook, jazz chestnuts and Brazilian repertoire. (“Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Besame Mucho,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Pennies from Heaven” among the many offerings this night.

The Myakka River

Participants included Tony Boffa, a guitarist, singer and bandleader from the Portland, Maine, area, who splits his year between northern New England and southwest Florida; jazz club secretary Jack Fanning, a two-mallet traditionalist on vibes; clarinetist Bob Felman; violinist Elisa Miro, who leads a band called KlezMania On The Gulf; saxophonist Ron Drischel (who often plays alto and tenor simultaneously); and valve trombonist Jim Fitzpatrick.

"I like this kind of scene,” guitarist Boffa said between sets. “It’s a great vibe. And Dominic is as good a bass player as I’ve ever heard.”

The jam was a great opportunity to savor the skill of Goodman, a former New Yorker whose subtle and inventive comping illuminated the arranger’s touch he brings to his improvisation.

Clarinetist Felman called the weekly jams “a great break from my real job.” (He’s a local gastroenterologist.)

Snook Haven is an informal room where the regulars and the wait staff know each other by first name. The stage is flanked on the left by a taxidermist’s delight, including a skunk, a small bear and even an alligator’s toothy head, which Goodman used as a hat rack for the night.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A pleasant surprise

Today’s mail brought a terrific surprise…a copy of the latest Miles Davis compilation, Warner Brothers’ European division’s five-CD boxed set Miles Davis The Warner Years: 1986-1991, which was released this fall in Europe. This project was first planned in 2001 with Rhino as a six-CD set. That was shelved due to legal and licensing issues. It is now out minus a bit of the originally planned material.

The surprise? The cover and spine of the box feature a Miles photo that I took at a jazz festival appearance in 1987. I had been in contact with Rhino folks about providing some imagery back when the initial project was in the works, but hadn’t even heard of the project's revival. As serendipity would have it, Warner Music France obtained the image through Dalle, a stock photo agency in Paris to which I have been submitting music photography for many years.

The Warner Years offers the complete albums Tutu (1986), Amandla (1989), Live Around the World (1996), the historic Miles and Quincy Live at Montreux (1991), on which Davis revisited his 1950s repertoire with Gil Evans for the first time in decades at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and Doo-Bop (1991), plus seven elections from the soundtrack of Dingo (1991) and five from Siesta (1987). Disc 5 includes four previously unreleased songs and performances on which Davis accompanied Scritti Politti, Cameo, Chaka Khan, Zucchero, Kenny Garrett, Marcus Miller and Shirley Horn.

There is much here to enjoy from Miles’s final creative phase when he further blurred the jazz star/pop star boundaries.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Activism and artistry

What do Diana Krall and jazz festival regulars Bettye Lavette, Lucia Micarelli and Angelique Kidjo have in common with Pete Townshend, Maroon 5, Miley Cyrus, Sugarland, Ziggy Marley and Marianne Faithfull? (The correct answer is not “they’re musicians.")

They’re among the 80 artists who will be featured on a new four-disc compilation being released January 24 to support the work of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization Amnesty International.

The project is called Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. More than 80 musicians contributed new or previously unreleased recordings of Dylan tunes. The performers range in age from teenage pop star Miley Cyrus, 19, to folk music legend Pete Seeger, who, at 92, recorded Dylan's poignant "Forever Young" with a children's chorus.

Project producers Jeff Ayeroff and Julie Yannatta said in a news release this week that they consider the project “a powerful fusion of the music community's respect for Amnesty's life-affirming work and for Bob Dylan's enduring brilliance.”

The participating musicians are diverse, ranging stylistically from diversity of the musicians and musical genres - from rock, rap, hip-hop to pop, folk, country, jazz and blues. Seventy songs were recorded especially for this release. All of the artists, session musicians, arrangers, engineers, producers and recording studios worked pro-bono to support the project.

The 2012 release is quite appropriate, and will resonate with those who look at things like milestone anniversaries. In 1962, Amnesty International evolved from a one-year campaign to free political prisoners into a worldwide movement fighting for justice, freedom and human dignity. In March 1962, Bob Dylan's debut album was released, launching an unparalleled recording career. The project will be available in pysical (four discs) and digital release through Fontana Distribution.

Track list:

Disc 1
01. Raphael Saadiq – Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
02. Patti Smith – Drifter’s Escape
03. Rise Against – Ballad of Hollis Brown
04. Tom Morello The Nightwatchman – Blind Willie McTell
05. Pete Townshend – Corrina, Corrina
06. Bettye LaVette – Most of the Time
07. Charlie Winston – This Wheel’s On Fire
08. Diana Krall – Simple Twist of Fate
09. Brett Dennen – You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
10. Mariachi El Bronx – Love Sick
11. Ziggy Marley – Blowin’ in the Wind
12. The Gaslight Anthem – Changing of the Guards
13. Silversun Pickups – Not Dark Yet
14. My Morning Jacket – You’re A Big Girl Now
15. The Airborne Toxic Event – Boots of Spanish Leather
16. Sting – Girl from the North Country
17. Mark Knopfler – Restless Farewell

Disc 2
01. Queens Of The Stone Age – Outlaw Blues
02. Lenny Kravitz – Rainy Day Woman # 12 & 35
03. Steve Earle & Lucia Micarelli – One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)
04. Blake Mills – Heart Of Mine
05. Miley Cyrus – You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
06. Billy Bragg – Lay Down Your Weary Tune
07. Elvis Costello – License to Kill
08. Angelique Kidjo – Lay, Lady, Lay
09. Natasha Bedingfield – Ring Them Bells
10. Jackson Browne – Love Minus Zero/No Limit
11. Joan Baez – Seven Curses (Live)
12. The Belle Brigade – No Time To Think
13. Sugarland – Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You (Live)
14. Jack’s Mannequin – Mr. Tambourine Man
15. Oren Lavie – 4th Time Around
16. Sussan Deyhim – All I Really Want To Do
17. Adele – Make You Feel My Love (Recorded Live at WXPN)

Disc 3
01. K’NAAN – With God On Our Side
02. Ximena Sariñana – I Want You
03. Neil Finn with Pajama Club – She Belongs to Me
04. Bryan Ferry – Bob Dylan’s Dream
05. Zee Avi – Tomorrow Is A Long Time
06. Carly Simon – Just Like a Woman
07. Flogging Molly – The Times They Are A-Changin’
08. Fistful Of Mercy – Buckets Of Rain
09. Joe Perry – Man Of Peace
10. Bad Religion – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
11. My Chemical Romance – Desolation Row (Live)
12. RedOne featuring Nabil Khayat – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
13. Paul Rodgers & Nils Lofgren – Abandoned Love
14. Darren Criss featuring Chuck Criss and Freelance Whales – New Morning
15. Cage the Elephant – The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
16. Band of Skulls – It Ain’t Me, Babe
17. Sinéad O’Connor – Property of Jesus
18. Ed Roland and The Sweet Tea Project – Shelter From The Storm
19. Ke$ha – Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
20. Kronos Quartet – Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right

Disc 4
01. Maroon 5 – I Shall Be Released
02. Carolina Chocolate Drops – Political World
03. Seal & Jeff Beck – Like A Rolling Stone
04. Taj Mahal – Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream
05. Dierks Bentley – Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) (Live)
06. Mick Hucknall – One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)
07. Thea Gilmore – I’ll Remember You
08. State Radio – John Brown
09. Dave Matthews Band – All Along the Watchtower (Live)
10. Michael Franti – Subterranean Homesick Blues
11. We Are Augustines – Mama, You Been On My Mind
12. Lucinda Williams – Tryin’ To Get To Heaven
13. Kris Kristofferson – Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)
14. Eric Burdon – Gotta Serve Somebody
15. Evan Rachel Wood – I’d Have You Anytime
16. Marianne Faithfull – Baby Let Me Follow You Down (Live)
17. Pete Seeger – Forever Young
18. Bob Dylan – Chimes Of Freedom

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The value of partnerships

Two announcements this week underscored the importance of partnerships in building or sustaining the jazz audience - and keeping the music fresh. That approach - including the role of corporate sponsorship - is something vital in the arts. George Wein was a pioneer in this area for jazz and, indeed, the performing arts, when he developed naming rights opportunities for sponsors at his jazz festivals in the early 1970s. So it is not surprising that Wein figures in one of the newest developments.

In brief:

· The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded a $50,000, 29-month Arts Program grant to the Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc. support presentations by DDCF grantees at the Newport Jazz Festival® from 2011 to 2013. The source of the funding is not a surprise here since the late Doris Duke was a regular, low-key Newport Jazz Festival attendee from the 1950s into the early 1990s.

It is interesting that this announcement came after the first round of support. Composer / drummer / bandleader John Hollenbeck and saxophonist Miguel Zenón debuted new works or arrangements, commissioned by this grant, at the 2011 NewportJazz Festival presented by Natixis Global Asset Management. PercussionistDafnis Prieto has been commissioned to write a new piece for his sextet to debut at the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival, which is set for next August 3 to 5. (
Read more here)

Jazz at Lincoln Center revealed plans to expand abroad, creating a new jazz club in Doha, Qatar, and four other cities as part of an unusual partnership with the St. Regis luxury hotel chain. The new club is scheduled to open in Qatar’s capital city next April. J@LC has been sending its musicians abroad on tour for years, but this is the first time the NY-based nonprofit has established a permanent subsidiary abroad.

The 120-seat club in Doha will be modeled after the Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola that is part of the Lincoln Center complex on Columbus Circle in Manhattan. J@LC Executive Director Adrian Ellis said the agreement with St. Regis Hotels and Resorts includes opening four more clubs in new hotels being built around the world over the next five years, though deals on specific sites have yet to be negotiated. (
Read more here)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jazz in the SW Florida spotlight

Allan Vaché Quintet

Charlotte County Jazz Society
Clarinetist Allan Vaché may be best known for his 17-year stint (1975-1992) with
the Jim Cullum Jazz Band, a San Antonio-based classic jazz/early jazz outfit that received heavy exposure on NPR’s “Riverwalk” weekly broadcast. That experience must seem like ancient history, since Vaché set out on his own as a solo artist 16 years ago. He’s based in Orlando FL, travels extensively for festivals and concerts, and has made a dozen recordings for the Arbors Jazz label.

Vaché displayed his stylistic range and strong chops Monday night with a quintet appearance at the acoustically marvelous Cultural Center Theater in Port Charlotte FL. It was his second performance in three years as part of the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s annual concert series. His band included cornetist Davey Jones, pianist Jeff Phillips, bassist Charlie Silva and drummer Ed Metz Jr. All of the players received significant spotlights.

The evening’s two sets included some updates on early Swing jazz, with Vaché also blending other styles. There was a bit of bop (“Bernie’s Tune”), obscure standards, chestnuts from the American Songbook, the Duke Ellington songbook, Nat King Cole (complete with Vaché‘s vocal take on the clever lyrics to “Straighten Up and Fly Right”) and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s beautiful boss nova “Look to the Sky.” The evening wound down with a blistering take on “Caravan” featuring Metz - with Phillips adding a twist with his clavé comping.

Vaché’s clarinet playing is marvelous, particularly as he digs in and shares the passion he finds within a tune. In that regard, he seemed at times to be channeling the emotional style of his clarinet hero, the late Kenny Davern. It was most evident on “Bernie’s Tune,” “After You’ve Gone,” the Jobim bossa nova and “Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me.”

As the leader introduced the band, he told telling the audience of about 300: “If you like me, my name is Allan Vaché. If you don’t like me, my name is Warren Vaché.”

There likely will be a lot more such sibling humor on March 9 when the Vaché Brothers Swinging Quintet, featuring Allan on clarinet and Warren on cornet, performs up the road at the Sarasota Jazz Festival. It will feature the same rhythm section.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Getting acclimated

Postings from the transplanted Jazz Notes Central are diminished a bit as the unpacking and reorganizing here in Southwest Florida three weeks after our move to a warmer climate. There's nothing quite like a fresh grapefruit from the backyard tree, and reading the local paper on the lanai, to jump start the morning.

We escaped New England a week before the awful late October snows. We're glad about that, but astonished at the damage and inconvenience with which our former region had to deal.

Immersion in the area jazz scene has not yet begun but I hope to rectify that in small steps beginning this week. We'll still keep a long distance eye on national and northeastern doings, but just add more of a southern flavor to the goings on. Oops, there's another box awaiting some decisions. Gotta go. Dig the area scenery and architecture in this image taken yesterday on a brief shopping excursion.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Milestone month

Life’s milestones can result in momentous occasions. Such is the case with Chick Corea’s 70th birthday, which was on June 12. The extended fanfare continues for the pianist, who tonight opens a four-week “birthday celebration” engagement at New York’s Blue Note.

Over 23 nights, ending on November 27, Corea will perform in 10 different musical contexts that reflect his diversified career. Check out the club’s website for full details, and you’ll find the range of participating musical partners to be fascinating. Acoustic Chick, electric Chick, a nod to Miles Davis, as well as an unplugged version of Return to Forever, duos, trios and three nights (November 18-20) billed as “Chick’s Flamenco Heart,” which will explore the pianist’s love of Spanish and Latin music with a new quintet.

The duos are particularly fascinating, teaming Corea at various points with singer Bobby McFerrin and pianists Marcus Roberts and Herbie Hancock (the latter a generational peer at age 71). There’s also a duo collaboration of sorts with vibes player Gary Burton (augmented by the Harlem String Quartet. [photo: Chick Corea at Newport, 2010]

Each night, indeed each set, should be fascinating. There will be no coasting for Corea. Not that there ever is.