Monday, April 30, 2012

A special day for jazz - globally

Naysayers who claim jazz is dead or dying will find a lot of contrarians today at Congo Square in New Orleans and the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

This is the first International Jazz Day, an official designation that was made last November by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for each April 30.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Montreal is full of surprises - again

For 32 years, the Montreal International Jazz Festival team has been showing the world how to produce a music festival that is filled with programming innovations, draws from genres and artists from around the globe – and runs like clockwork.
The 33rd edition, which runs from June 28 to July 8, is just around the corner and the tickets for the 180+ indoor concerts went on sale this weekend. This six-square-block musical party is always a treat, no matter whether you go just for the 400 or so free outdoor shows at 10 stages in and around Montreal’s Place des Arts, or you also pony up to see some of the formal indoor concerts.
Jazz is always the core of the festival, but you’ll also find plenty of blues, folk, afro-pop and world music. It’s always a treat to hear some of the formidable Canadian musicians who never seem to garner much attention here in the U.S.

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's all about musical art in an artsy place

The South County Jazz Club concluded its 2011-12 concert season this afternoon with a concert spotlighting cabaret singer Kitt Moran, who has become an entertainment staple in Southwest Florida over the past eight years. She was backed by her husband, pianist and arranger Mike Moran, and bassist Dominic Mancini
at the Venice FL Art Center.

Building for the future

George Wein
How do you ensure the granddaddy of jazz festivals will be around for a long time? Producer George Wein has been running the Newport Jazz Festival since it was first held in 1954. That's 58 years ago, and Wein, now 86, is a realist.
He knows he won't be around forever, but wants to ensure the festival will be. So he's taken a multi-faceted approach to sustain the event, showcase newer generations of musicians, and help build the future talent base and audience for jazz.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Royal event

The Southwest Florida music community rallied on Sunday to support pianist Michael Royal and his wife Julie with an event that brought together more than 50 area musicians and scores more music fans. The 3 1/2-hour jazz jam packed the Floribbean Restaurant & Lounge in downtown Sarasota.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hug the ones you love

I never had a brother by blood and missed out on all of those brotherly things that happen in families. Thanks to jazz, I developed brother-like friendships with a couple of people over the past 20 years. And now, one of them is gone - way, way, way too soon.
The jazz world lost one of its great accompanists and yesterday I lost a friend who was indeed like a brother. Pianist George Mesterhazy died in his sleep yesterday - four days after his 59th birthday - at home in Cape May, New Jersey. 
He was a revered player on the South Jersey jazz scene, who also toured the world as accompanist to Shirley Horn in her later years, Rebecca Parris, Paula West and Mark Murphy, among many others. He worked as pianist and musical director for both West and Murphy right up to his passing, accompanying Murphy to London, Paris, Berlin and Istanbul a couple of months ago. And now he's jamming - no doubt leading the festivities and cracking most of the jokes - in a heavenly jazz club.
George Mesterhazy
His talent was over the top as a player and arranger. But his genuine warmth and essence as a human being was more amazing. George had a zest for life and an ability to connect with people that seems beyond compare. His many friends have been filling his Facebook page with their memories over the past 15 hours or so. Such an impact on so many people.
I cherish the memories, the phone calls, the trips, and his dash to Rhode Island 50 weeks ago to play a few tunes when Kathie and I married on a beautiful day in a Japanese garden. George celebrated with us for a few hours and then headed right back to New Jersey the same night. He was always busy but always made time for the important stuff - his friends.

This image by San Francisco photographer Pat Johnson truly captured George's spirit.
My heart aches for his longtime companion/girlfriend, Victoria Watson, his dad, his kids, his extended family.
The only other words right now are those with which George ended every one of our phone calls.
"Love ya, brother."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jamming for a super cause

There’s an event scheduled Sunday, April 15 that should be top of mind for anyone in the jazz community near or far who has enjoyed hearing pianist Michael Royal in concert or via recording – or has had the pleasure of working with him.

Michael Royal
The South County Jazz Club has organized an afternoon jam session at Floribbean Restaurant & Lounge’s new upstairs banquet room to benefit Michael and his wife Julie in a time of overwhelming financial need.
Julie was diagnosed with breast cancer, has had three surgeries and faces significant radiation and medication treatments. The estimated cost for all of this is into six figures and – as sometimes the case with musicians and their families – the Royals have no health insurance.

The benefit runs from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Floribbean, 1400 Main Street in Sarasota [Phone (941) 365-2266]. The South County Jazz Club and the Jazz Club of Sarasota are among those spreading the word. The suggested minimum donation for attendees is $20 apiece. The restaurant is also kicking in a percentage of proceeds from its food and beverage sales.

If you can attend and help, I will see you there. If scheduling conflicts or geography are issues, I encourage you to help by writing a check. 

Checks should be made out to Michael Royal, and mailed to:
Michael Royal
c/o South County Jazz Club
1435 East Venice Ave #104-172
Venice, FL 34292

(Michael Royal photo by Gary F. Humes)

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Orleans comes to Newport in an ideal way

Dr. John
There may be no better way to open the Newport Jazz Festival than what founding producer George Wein is doing this summer.
New Orleans is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of jazz. The opening night concert at Newport Casino and International Tennis Hall of Fame - the birthplace of the Newport Jazz Festival back in 1954 - is going N'awlins in a big way.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

CDs of Note - Short Takes

A closer look at new CDs by Esparanza Spalding, Omar Sosa and Paolo Fresu, Edmar Castaneda and Stacey Kent....