Saturday, June 28, 2014

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz in the summer

The snowbird concert season for jazz may be over in the Sarasota to Naples territory, but there’s still jazz to be found. Most of it is in the form of regular gigs at restaurants that offer jazz multiple times a week.

 They include J.D.’s in Port Charlotte (after its vacation week hiatus ends July 8), The Orange House in Punta Gorda, The Roadhouse in Ft. Myers, The Haye Loft upstairs at Euphemia Hay on Longboat Key, and a most-welcome new kid on the block. 

The jazz newcomer (since February), is Chef Charles Mereday’s Alto - Live Jazz, Kitchen in Naples, which offers jazz nightly as a complement to its fine dining (though there is no music on Mondays or Tuesdays for tyhe rest of the summer). It’s located at 492 Bayfront Place in the heart of Naples’ vibrant, upscale Bayfront complex near the corner of Tamiami Trail and Goodlette Frank Road. The lineup changes nightly. It includes a fabulous quintet on Saturdays co-led by trumpeter Dan Miller and tenor saxophonist Lew Del Gatto, with Joe Delaney on piano, Don Mopsick on bass and Patricia Dean on drums. It’s a tight bop unit. If you find yourself in Naples, be sure to check out Alto. It was inspired by Philadelphia’s wonderful Zanzibar Blue, an upscale jazz-and-dining venue in Center City where Mereday was executive chef from 1996-1998. Much to the dismay of Philly jazz fans, Zanzibar Blue closed in 2007 after the landlord proposed doubling the rent. 

Jam sessions or sit-in opportunities remain a staple of the local scene as well. You can find them at Ocean Blues in Sarasota on Mondays, Allegro Bistro in Venice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Cactus Jack’s in North Fort Myers on Wednesdays. Drummer Al Hixon’s Monday night jams at 15 South on St. Armand’s Circle will resume in October, as will the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s jams on the fourth Sunday of the month at Port Charlotte Golf Club.

There is at least one notable jazz concert scheduled this summer, arriving on Saturday, August 23. Pianist Shelly Berg and an all-star student jazz group from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music perform at Riverview High School Performing Arts Center in Sarasota. This is a Jazz Club of Sarasota event, sponsored by The Jazz Cruise. It’s a 7:30 p.m. start.

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