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.

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 been facing this with no health insurance.

The musicians participating were too numerous to list but a few notables included pianist Dick Hyman, saxophonists Jim Wellen and Rodney Rojas, bassists John Lamb and Don Dean, guitarist Larry Camp, drummer Dave Pruyn, and singers Katt Hefner, Kitt Moran, Debbie Keeton, Lauren Mitchell and Melanie Massell. The youngest performer was 12-year-old Sarasota drum prodigy Kei Bland. Jazz broadcaster Bob Seymour of WUSF in Tampa also was on hand.

Drummer Al Hixon, Mark Neuenschwander and Michael Royal formed the core rhythm section for the afternoon, though the sitting in created a lot of personnel variations on the bandstand. At least a half-dozen musicians stopped by to support the event but were unable to perform due to scheduling conflicts that afternoon.
"There is a lot of love in this room today," Michael Royal told the crowd. "Everybody is here to play today. This has been beyond my wildest dreams."
Kudos to Al Hixon and South County Jazz Club president Morrie Trumble for their tireless work in organizing the event. And kudos to all of you who stepped up to support the Royals.

If you couldn't attend, it's not too late to help the cause.
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
The Jazz Club of Sarasota is also planning another fundraiser on May 11 as part of its Jazz at 2 performance series.

Photos from top:

1 - Drummer Al Hixon, vibes player Jack Fanning, bassist Mark Neuenschwander, saxophonist Jim Wellen and pianist Dick Hyman.

2 - Drummer Phil Tirino, guitarist Larry Camp, pianist Michael Royal and singer Lauren Mitchell.

3 - Violinist Elisa Miro, drummer Johnny Moore, bassist Mark Neuenschwander and pianist Michael Royal.

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