Saturday, December 27, 2014

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, in January and February.
Nicki Parrott

  • Wednesday, January 7 – Singer Kevin Mahogany guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra. Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, January 12 – Back by popular demand after a sizzling performance two seasons ago, vibraphonist Christian Tamburr’s quartet at the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s 2014-15 Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County. 7 p.m 
  • Friday, January 16 – Eddie Metz-Nicki Parrott-Rosanno Sportiello trio, Jazz Club of Sarasota, Riverview High School Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 17 – Guitarist Larry Coryell trio, South County Jazz Club concert series, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 8 p.m. 
    Pat Martino
  • Wednesday, February 4 – Guitarist Pat Martino is the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra’s special guest. Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, February 9, 2015 – Twin saxophonists Peter and Will Anderson are featured with their quintet in the Charlotte County Jazz Society‘s Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County. 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, February 10  Singer-pianist Harry Connick Jr., Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, 8 p.m.
  •  Wednesday, February 11 – Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota, 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 21 – 10th annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival, Laishley Park, Punta Gorda, 1-6 pm. Saxophonist Mindi Abair (back for her seventh consecutive year), guitarist Nick Colionne and saxophonist Dave Koz are featured at this smooth jazz event. The mainstream jazz portion of the weekend is at Sunday brunch at the Isles Yacht Club. The latter will feature drummer-singer Patricia Dean, trombonist Herb Bruce, pianist Jeff Phillips, bassist and guitarist Dave Trefethen, and drummer-vibraphonist Joe Bilardo. All will mix it up in varied combinations between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 25 – Singer Rene Marie. Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 28 – Singer Giacomo Gates, South County Jazz Club concert series, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 8 p.m.

    Several local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, The Orange House in Punta Gorda, The Roadhouse in Ft. Myers, and Alto in Naples) 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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas 2014 and joyous New Year from the Jazz Notes staff.

This year we share some vintage musical cheer from among our holiday favorites.

The holiday would not be complete without the delightful animated video of The Platters’ doo-wopping their way through “White Christmas” with feeling.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ho-Ho-Ho Jazz

Nate Najar
Guitarist Nate Najar brought his jazz holiday show to Sarasota on Saturday evening with special guest Harry Allen. The South County Jazz Club event at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center blended jazz treatments of holiday material with some jazz classics.
Najar, Lamb, Allen, Feinman, Suggs

The event marked the club's first opportunity to hear trumpeter James Suggs, an upstate New York native who moved to the St. Petersburg area this year after having spent the past eight years living and working in Argentina. He was a fine addition to Najar's band, which also included ex-Ellington bassist John Lamb and drummer Mark Feinman.

The holiday fare came from deep in Najar's repertoire in some cases, such as the Joao Gilberto bossa nova "Presente de Natal" ("Christmas Present") and Charlie Byrd's "A Carol for All Seasons," which was named for the guitarist's daughter, Carol. The Gilberto tune was ideal, as New York-based Allen has a special affinity for Brazilian jazz. There were also several pieces from the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn "Nutcracker Suite" jazz repertoire, and a lovely solo guitar version of "Greensleeves" aka "What Child is This?".

The evening's other gems included Suggs' trumpet feature on "What a Wonderful World," and the bands takes on "Things Ain't What they Used to Be" and Duke Ellington's "The Feeling of Jazz." The latter was most appropriate, because jazz and the holiday season are so much about feelings. 

Combine the two, and the spirit on stage is anything but ho-hum. It's ho-ho-ho and them some.

Friday, December 19, 2014

When jazz is a family affair

The South County Jazz Club's matinee concert at the Venice FL Art Center on Thursday, December 18 showed how much fun jazz can be when it's a family affair.

Hod O'Brien
It doesn't hurt to have had a family with considerable chops. Hod O'Brien, a fine bebop pianist  since the 1950s, led the trio that backed his wife, singer Stephanie Nakasian. They brought along a special musical treat - their 20-year-old daughter, Veronica Swift - who is blossoming as a fine singer in the jazz, rock and electronica worlds. 

Jazz standards and Great American Songbook  material were blended with a bit of stride piano, and material associated with singers Billie Holiday, Helen Humes (the blues "Million Dollar Secret"), Ethel Waters and Lee Wiley. Nakasian's engaging lyrical treatments were enhanced by O'Brien's keyboard mastery.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Four Freshmen experience

Stein Malvey, Curtis Calderon
The Four Freshmen have been straddling the jazz and pop genres for 66 years nonstop, though the quartet hasn't had an original member in its ranks since 1992. But everywhere they go, they still pack in full houses.

Sunday's matinee concert at Sarasota's was a case in point.Glenridge Performing Arts Center, sponsored by the South County Jazz Club. The gig was sold out more than a week in advance, with more than 200 turning out to hear classic tunes performed by the band's 23rd combination of singer/players. 

Harmony vocals are the band's hallmark, bridging the vocal tradition associated with 1940s and '50s swing big bands with groups they inspired, notably the Beach Boys and The Lettermen. Clearly the hunger for that sound and style is still there.

The current lineup consists of Brian Eichenberger (lead vocals and bass), Stein Malvey (vocals and guitar), Curtis Calderon (vocals and trumpet), and Bob Ferreira (vocals and drums). was first established in 2013. Malvey is the newest member, joining the band in 2013.

Most interesting moments: The clever back-to-back performance of the 1952 hit "The Day Isn't Long Enough (When I'm With You!)" and its direct opposite, 1950's "Pick  Up Your Tears (and Go Home)." They also paid tribute to the founding members: brothers Don and Ross Barbour, Bob Flanigan and Hal Kratzsch with a reprise of the band's greatest hit: "It's a Blue World." Without those four, this phenomenon may never have happened.

Bob Ferreira, Brian Eichenberger, Stein Malvey, Curtis Calderon


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The art of the jazz duo

Pianist Johnny Varro is best known for his interpretations of vintage jazz, most of it dating to the 1920s through the '40s. But Friday afternoon's duo concert with bassist Mark Neuenschwander for the South County Jazz Club gave Varro a chance to spread his wings a bit into material not associated with his Swing 7 classic jazz band.

Their duo came about by accident a few years ago when the drummer never showed for a trio gig. They shifted gears and the third man out wasn't missed.

The duo format works well in the right hands, such as these jazz veterans. Varro and Neuenschwander, one of the finest and busiest bass players in western Florida, know when to lead, when to support, and when to sit out and marvel in the other's solos. 
Eyes on Jazz
This unplugged concert in the acoustically marvelous main gallery of the Venice Art Center included a wide array of jazz standards, most of them romance-inspired. 

Favorites included "Tangerine," the Johnny Mandel's "Emily" (the waltz theme from the 1964 film "The Americanization of Emily"), "Body and Soul," and a Duke Ellington medley that coursed through "Sophisticated Lady," "What Am I Here For?," "Prelude to a Kiss" and "Take the A Train." One surprising number - delightful to these ears - was Varro's inclusion of Thelonious Monk's 1954 bop standard "Blue Monk."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hard bopper Greg Abate and his high-energy jazz

Greg Abate
High-energy jazz doesn't describe the full feeling of listening to hard bop saxophonist Greg Abate in live performance because so much intensity and idea-making fuels his music. But it comes close. Even his approach to ballads and sambas have that lilt. They start out breezy or laid-back, but they are certain to have their burning moments.Count on it.

Such was the case on Monday, December 8, when the New England-based jazz man performed in the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert series. He visits every two years for a Port Charlotte stop and a few other gigs in the area. And why not? It's a great way to escape harsher northern weather for a few days.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

2014’s Top 10 Jazz Listings…. One Scribe's Take

This the season for the outpouring of Top 10 lists, and their many variations, for jazz, world events, etc. The jazz lists always have a lot of variation depending on the individual reviewer's personal tastes, as well as what he or she had a chance to hear during the year.* Bottom line, all of these are very subjective.

My choices below (aside from top 10 new songs of the year) were submitted to the Jazz Times and NPR Music 2014 compilations. (The latter is a Francis Davis-produced poll that previously was published by The Village Voice and

 As I begin preparing my review of significant events and trends in jazz this year for, I thought I'd share my "best of 2014" lists. *Always keep in mind the above caveats.

 The 10 best new jazz releases of 2014

1.   Cava Menzies/Nick Phillips, Moment To Moment (Nick Phillips Music)

2.   Barb Jungr, Hard Rain (Kristalyn)

3.   Pat Metheny Unity Group, Kin (↔) (Nonesuch-Metheny Group Productions)

4.   Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra, Habitat (Justin Time)

5.    Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Volume 3 (Doxy/OKeh)

6.   Craig Handy, Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith (OKeh)

7.   George Cables, Icons & Influences (HighNote)

8.    Alan Broadbent and NDR Big Band, America The Beautiful (Jan Matthies)

9.   Jamie Saft, Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte, The New Standard (RareNoise)

10. Suzanna Smith, Between Heaven & Love (Ink Pen)

The best historical/reissues of 2014 (includes any recordings made over 10 years ago, whether newly released or reissued):

1.   Gene Ludwig-Pat Martino Trio, Young Guns (HighNote)

2.   Francy Boland, Playing With The Trio (Schema Rearward)

3.   John Coltrane, Offering: Live At Temple University  (Resonance)

4.   Miles Davis, Miles at the Fillmore - Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 (Columbia/Legacy)
The 10 best new songs from CDs released in 2014, listed alphabetically:

1.   Noah Baerman, “Lester” from Ripples (self-produced)

2.  Laura Dubin, “Thank You For Your Time” from Introducing the Laura Dubin Trio (self-produced)

3.   Alex Garcia, “11:11 Spirit” from Alex Garcia’s AfroMantra, This Side of Mestizaje (AfroMantra)

4.   Kaszuo Ishiguro and Jim Tomlinson, “The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain” from Stacey Kent, The Changing Lights (Warner Bros).

5.   Pat Metheny, “Born” from Kin (↔) (Nonesuch-Metheny Group Productions)

6.   Ellen Rowe, “And Miles To Go (Part 2)” from Courage Music (PKO)

7.   Gonzalo Rubalcaba, “Volcan Durmiente” from Volcán (5Pasion)

8.   Jamie Saft, “Blue Shuffle” from The New Standard (RareNoise)

9.   Anton Schwartz, “Dawn’s Song” from Flash Mob (Antonjazz)

10. Herb Silverstein, “Wish You Were Here” from Monday Morning (self-produced)
2014’s best vocal recording:
Barb Jungr, Hard Rain (Kristalyn)
2014’s best Latin/Brazilian jazz recordings:

1.  Volcán, Volcán (5Pasion)

2.  Omar Sosa, Real Live: The New AfroCuban Quartet Live in Japan (Otá)

3.  Afro Bop Alliance, Angel Eyes (Zoho)

4.  Yosvany Terry, New Throned King (5Pasion)

5.  Gabriel Espinosa and Hendrick Meurkens, Samba Little Samba (Zoho) 

2014’s best book about jazz:
“ART: Why I Stuck with a Junkie Jazzman,” by Laurie Pepper (APMCorp)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Jazz has posted excerpts from my new book, “Jazz in the Key of Light,” that spotlight nine of its 80 featured musicians.

The coffee-table-style book is drawing five-star reviews. 

Here is a sampling:

  • “Just want to let you know I'm getting a late piano start today and it's YOUR FAULT! I got your book, and I decided to read it this morning instead catching up on the latest health and terrorist crises in our world. What a treat your book is! I'm not sure if I've seen something like this before, and I have a lot of books. Great photos with insightful words. Very cool!" – pianist-composer Lisa Hilton
  • “Some non-musician/non-musical friends, who were here on a visit, began looking at the book on my coffee table. The format interested them enough to ask intelligent questions about jazz. There is obviously a wealth of enjoyment for the jazz enthusiast, but I saw that the book can both intrigue and draw-in the beginner. You've got a winner here!” singer-guitarist Tony Boffa 
  • “This book is going to be a collector's item. It is beautiful and thoughtful, marrying masterful photographs with telling quotes from each profiled musician. Author Ken Franckling has harvested decades of his work to capture the vitality and spirit of the jazz world for anyone who loves this type of music (and how can you not?).” reader Michael Blumstein (posted on Amazon)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Bobby van Deusen show

When you’ve got a piano marvel in the house, you wind him up and let him go – and then go along for the ride. That was the case Thursday when clarinetist Bud Leeds brought his quartet to the Venice (FL) Art Center as part of the South County Jazz Club’s matinee concert series.
Bud Leeds, Bobby van Deusen
The marvel was Bobby van Deusen, a ragtime and stride specialist who lives in Pensacola but was in the area for this weekend’s Suncoast Jazz Classic. Van Deusen will perform at the weekend-long trad jazz event in Clearwater with the Barbary Coast Dixieland Show Band. 

Bassist Don Mopsick, a 19-year member of the Jim Cullum Jazz Band, and drummer Tony Martin, who had worked with van Deusen previously in New Orleans, rounded out Leeds’ band.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Whether organic or synthetic, jazz is good for the soul....

I walked into this afternoon's jazz concert at the Englewood (FL) Art Center expecting it to be a B-3 kind of afternoon with the Sarasota-based Organic Trio. But keyboard player Robbie Rose decided to bring his electronic keyboards to the South County Jazz Club matinee rather than transport the hefty Hammond B-3.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Two FLA jazz book-signing events 11/15, 16

There will be book signing/meet the author events this weekend for "Jazz in the Key of Light" in two Southwest Florida locations. Find out more about the book here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Spotlighting obscure tunes with toe-tapping swing

Johnny Varro
Pianist Johnny Varro seems most at home in obscure jazz material - not only 50 or more years old, but in some cases, obscure even when it was first performed. Such was the case with more than half of the compositions he presented Monday night, November 11, with the Florida edition of his Swing 7 band at the Charlotte County Jazz Society concert series.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at CD’s by Omer Avital, Nancy Kelly, and Gabriel Espinosa & Hendrick Meurkens

Friday, October 31, 2014

Jazz singer shares new understanding of certain songs

June Garber
Transformative moments in life have an impact on music. Sometimes they inspire it. Sometimes they underscore the meaning within the lyrics, or help listeners - and singers -  better appreciate them. 

Such was the case Thursday, October 30, when singer June Garber performed at the Venice (FL) Art Center at a South County Jazz Club matinee concert, backed by saxophonist-flutist Tom Ellison, pianist Eddie Tobin, bassist John Lamb and drummer Dave Pruyn.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

CDs of Note – Short Takes

Taking a closer look at CD’s by the Hutchinson Andrew Trio, the Mike Longo Trio and Marianne Solivan….

Monday, October 20, 2014

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

The 2014-15 jazz concert season is under way. Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, between now and the end of the year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Two different yet effective jazz vocal approaches

The Charlotte County Jazz Society opened its 25th anniversary season Monday night with a double concert featuring Dave Pruyn and Paulette Pepper. The two Florida-based singers have very different, yet very effective, approaches to the Great American Songbook and jazz canon.