Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Buddy and Flip fest

With no full-fledged local jazz nightclub now in existence, where better to showcase the art of jazz than in an art gallery? That’s the case for the South County Jazz Club’s high-profile concert series at the Venice FL Art Center.

The center’s main gallery holds a maximum of 100 people, and there were few empty seats for today’s treat. Tampa-based drummer Ken Loomer brought his longstanding trio with pianist Tony Castellano Jr. and tenor saxophonist Franco Marino. It was a flashy and fun afternoon, with the leader showing off chops and enthusiasm reminiscent of his hero, Buddy Rich, and Marino’s frisky tenor coming more from a Flip Phillips style.

The range of material was expansive, from American Songbook standards and a few big band staples to Miles Davis’s “Seven Steps to Heaven,” Sonny Rollins’ calypso “St. Thomas” and Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man.” Castellano doubled on vocals on several tunes, including two originals and “Nancy With the Laughing Face” and “Just in Time.”

Loomer plays the full drum kit with abandon and subtlety during his lengthy spotlight solos, such as on the closer “Caravan,” where he sometimes played one stick off the other with the most delicate touch. Then after a journey up and down one cymbal, got a delightful tone off the tiny tip- top of the cymbal stand.

These guys have fun together and love to bring the audience along in the same spirit. As the concert began, a cellphone rang in the audience. Not missing a beat, Marino quipped “We work alone.”

The club, which provides jazz events serving in Venice, Englewood and North Port, holds monthly concerts at the art center September through December and in April. They run bi-weekly January through March. Trombonist Greg Nielsen’s quartet is on deck for January 27.

Note concerning the bottom photo: even his bandmates get into Loomer's solos, as noted by Castellano's cellphone camera work.

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