Thursday, December 24, 2015

Jazzy happy holidays

Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas 2015 and joyous New Year from the Jazz Notes staff.

A toast to you all as we share some vintage musical cheer from among our holiday favorites. Raise your glass.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Darren Barrett, June Bisantz, Kirsten Edkins, Scott Hamilton and Jeff Hamilton, and JAMBa…

Darren Barrett, Trumpet Vibes (dB Studios)
Toronto-born, Boston-based trumpeter Darren Barrett has a genre-jumping gem on his hands with Trumpet Vibes, his seventh CD. In short, you can call it hard bop meets reggae, with a pair of pop covers thrown in for good measure. Barrett blends the rhythms of his parents’ homeland, Jamaica, with hard-bop energy. One standout is his pensive original, “Chiapas,” which melds Barrett’s trumpet with Simon Mouillier on balaphone, as brothers Alexander and Anthony Toth anchor its ska rhythm on bass and drums respectively. 

Other gems are reggae twists to Lulu’s 1967 movie soundtrack hit “To Sir, With Love” and Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour,” and Barrett’s beautiful “Song for a Princess,” which co-features Mouillier on vibes. Another fine vibes player, Warren Wolf, is a special guest, joining the fun on the opener and closer, Barrett’s take on trumpet hero Donald Byrd’s “Fly Little Bird” and an original, “The Club Up The Street.” Dig into the rippling energy and the artistry with this projects wonderful pairing of trumpet and mallets.

June Bisantz, It’s Always You (self-produced)
Chet Baker’s lyrical trumpet and soft vocal style epitomized the cool jazz sound emanating from the West Coast in the 1950s. Singer June Bisantz channels that feeling on It’s Always You, the second CD inspired by Baker’s sound. Her smoky voice and artful sense of time are showcased as she covers a dozen tunes associated with Baker. Bisantz gets stellar support from pianist Alex Nakhimovsky and guitarist Norman Johnson. She teams with both on “Everything Depends on You” and “Born to Be Blue,” and with just Johnson on “”Forgetful,” “You’re Mine, You,” and “The Night We Called It a Day.” Gabor Viragh adds Baker-like trumpet accompaniment on four tracks, most notably “My Ideal” and the wistful “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.” Bisantz closes things out with a brief a capella take on “”Spring is Here.” Quite fittingly for her project, she dedicated the title track to Baker.

Kirsten Edkins, Art & Soul (self-produced)
Los Angeles-based Kirsten Edkins’ debut CD quickly shows that she is a saxophonist to take very seriously. She’s got chops galore, a lush sound and a swinging way with a melody, anchored by her crafty and confident improvisations. Her musical mentor, tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard, produced the project and is featured on three tracks, two on bass clarinet. Larry Goldings is aboard on piano and Hammond B-3, the latter adding to the funk of Edkins’ original, “Big B,” while bassist Mike Valerio and drummer Mark Ferber round out the rhythm section. Guitarist Larry Koonse, trumpeter Mike Cottone and trombonist Ryan Dragon guest on several tracks. While the project covers Mal Waldron’s jazz classic “Soul Eyes” and Eddie Harris’s “Mean Greens,” everything else here originated in Edkins’ creative musical mind.

Scott Hamilton & Jeff Hamilton Trio, Live in Bern (Capri) 
Credit Capri Records President Tom Burns for putting together two jazz greats who are at the top of their game and happen to share the same last name. Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton is one of the great swing jazz balladeers, but also quite capable of cutting loose on more spirited uptempo material. Drummer Jeff Hamilton is an ace at the drum kit, whether leading his own trio, working as a sideman or co-leading the Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. This project, recorded in May 2014 in Switzerland, teamed the tenor player with Hamilton’s trio with pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist Christoph Luty. While  tere are no duds, the highlights include their takes on Benny Carter’s classic jazz ballad “Key Largo,” the little-heard Strayhorn composition “Ballad for Very Tired and Very Sad Lotus Eaters,” and a spirited romp through “Centerpiece.” A lot of musical ground is covered – and it is impeccably good. Hamilton fans rejoice.

JAMBa, Off White (JAMBaTunes)
While there is a jam band feel throughout this project, the band name JAMBa does not reference the genre. It merely borrows initials from co-leaders drummer John Anter and bassist Marty Ballou. They pulled together an impressive lineup of studio players for Off White, a stretched-out, instrumental jazz tribute to The Beatles. It combines elements from The Fab Four’s White and If You Need Me sessions, sometimes mashing texture and instrumentation from one tune with the rhythms of another. For example, the tune “Hey Bulldog” includes licks from “Cold Turkey.” 

Besides the two leaders, the core band includes Joe “Sonny” Barbato on piano, Hammond B-3 and accordion, edgy guitarist Bruce Bartlett and saxophonist Klem Klimek. Bassist Dave Zinno and drum master Bernard Purdie joined the fun for two and three tracks respectively. Gems here include their takes on “Yer Blues” and “Flying” (both powered by Purdie), “Rocky Raccoon” (featuring Zinno), the calliope-esque “Junk,” a version of “Blackbird featuring just Anter, Ballou and Zinno, and a searing cover of George Harrison’s “Beware of Darkness.” Quite a few jazz players have covered Beatles material in recent years, but not like this.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Jazz Legacy Big Band hits the mark

David Pruyn
The calendar added interesting twists to bandleader David Pruyn’s top-flight Jazz Legacy Big Band return visit to the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series. The Monday, December 14 event in Port Charlotte fell two days after the centennial of Frank Sinatra’s birth – and 11 days before Christmas.

Pruyn is one of Florida’s most versatile musicians. He sings, he plays trumpet and plays drums, although he left the time-keeping on this gig to drummer Barry Smith. He spent more time than planned on the microphone due to the health-related absence of Sinatra vocal doppelganger Walt Andrus.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Jazz for the holidays

Bassist Don Mopsick recruited five other top-flight musicians who now call Southwest Florida home for a concert at the Centennial Park gazebo in downtown Venice FL on Sunday, December 6 combining artful, swinging jazz and holiday spirit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015’s Top 10 jazz listings – one scribe’s take

'Tis 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 JazzTimes and NPR Music 2015 compilations. (The latter is a Francis Davis-produced poll that previously was published by The Village Voice and

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bud Leeds mixes it up

Leeds, Van Deusen
Clarinetist Bud Leeds always pulls together a band that puts on a good show, you just never know walking in the door what you're going to hear. Such was the case at the South County Jazz Club's November 19 matinee concert at ther Venice FL Art Center.

Bobby van Deusen, a keyboard marvel on the traditional jazz scene, was in town from Pensacola for the gig. He is playing this weekend at the Suncoast Jazz Classic in Clearwater Beach with the Barbary Coast Dixieland Band.

Kenny Washington in Naples (updated)

Kenny Washington
California-based singer Kenny Washington wowed the crowd Wednesday night, November 18, when he was special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra for two shows at Daniels Pavilion.

The sextet includes Jerry Stawski on piano, Lew Del Gatto on tenor sax, Dan Miller on trumpet, Glenn Basham on violin, Kevin Mauldin on bass and Mike Harvey on drums. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz concert preview

The 2015-16 jazz concert season is underway and will continue through May, bolstered by the gradual arrival of the snowbirds. Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through January. I’ll post updated lists as the season progresses.
Dave Pruyn
  • Wednesday, November 18 – California-based singer Kenny Washington joins the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra for the sextet’s monthly All That Jazz concert. Daniels Pavilion, 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 13 – The Four Freshmen in concert. South County Jazz Club series, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 2 p.m.
  • Monday, December 14 – Singer-trumpeter-drummer Dave Pruyn and his Jazz Legacy Big Band in concert, Charlotte County Jazz Society‘s Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 16 – Trombonist Robin Eubanks joins the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra for the sextet’s monthly All That Jazz concert. Daniels Pavilion, 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, December 18 – Guitarist Nate Najar’s All-Star Big Band, with Harry Allen, Jon-Erik Kellso, John Lamb. Ken Peplowski, Chuck Redd, Jeff Rupert and others, presents a Big Band Jazz Holiday concert. Jazz Club of Sarasota, Riverview Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 6 – Guitarist Joe Cohn joins the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra for the sextet’s monthly All That Jazz concert. Daniels Pavilion, 6 and 8:30 p.m.
    Nicki Parrott
  • Sunday, January 10 – The Naples Jazz Orchestra opens its seventh season celebrating the 50th anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s classic Sinatra at the Sands recording at the big band’s new home, Titans Auditorium, located just off I-75’s exit 101 at 2925 Titan Way, Naples. The 7 p.m. concert will feature singer Walt Andrus.
  • Monday, January 11, 2016 – Drummer Eddie Metz’s trio with bassist Nicki Parrott and pianist Rossano Sportiello. Charlotte County Jazz Society‘s Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County. 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, January 12 – Trombonist Herb Bruce and his Herbicide Dixieland Band. South County Jazz Club performance, Venice Art Center, 390 Nokomis Ave S, Venice. 7 p.m. 
Several local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, The Orange House in Punta Gorda, Fandango in Sarasota, and The Roadhouse in Ft. Myers, 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.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Jazz Songbook investigated with chops galore

Jerry Stawski
Pianist Jerry Stawski's sextet brought more than all-star chops to its Charlotte County Jazz Society concert in Port Charlotte FL on Monday, November 9. Through thoughtful programming, it also brought a reminder that there is much more to jazz than the Great American Songbook.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Revisiting a crossover classic

Forty years ago, pianist Claude Bolling shook up the jazz and classical music worlds a bit with his Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio recording with flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal. It was one of the first true crossover recordings between the two musical styles. The public loved it – since it spent 530 weeks (more than 10 years) on Billboard’s classical charts after rapidly topping out at #1.

Fast forward from 1975 to 2015. With Bolling’s blessing – and an admonition not to tinker with the score, American arranger Steve Barta recast the original as a symphonic arrangement featuring the jazz quartet (flute plus rhythm section), string quartet and orchestra. This new version features pianist Jeffrey Biegel and jazz flute master Hubert Laws.

The added cushion of strings and brass wraps the project in a fine cocoon, celebrating the original melody and accentuating the dynamics of its mixed moods. Without offering a mere repertory revisit to the original, Barta, Biegel and Laws have updated Bolling’s suite beautifully. 

Huyssen's 1975 cover

For this self-produced recording, Barta also enlisted Bolling’s original artist/designer, Roger Huyssen, to update the original whimsical cover design, which featured the flute and piano sharing sleeping quarters. On the new version, the pair is still in bed, but surrounded by eight instrumental children.

Such a lavish tip of the hat by Barta & Co. was richly deserved and then some. Bolling’s 1975 piece can be credited for inspiring many fine jazz-classical crossover efforts through the years. They include pianist Donal Fox’s Scarlatti Jazz Suite Project, and the Burgstaller Martignon 4’s Mozart’s Blue Dreams and Other Crossover Fantasies and Bach’s Secret Files and More Crossover Fantasies projects.

The Symphonic Arrangement of Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio will have its live performance premiere on November 20-21 at the Madison Theatre at Molloy College in Rockville Centre NY. Biegel and Laws will perform with Long Island’s South Shore Symphony at those evening concerts.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Randy Brecker, Shai Maestro, Bob Merrrill and Dan Trudell...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jazz standard fare done well, twice over

The Charlotte County Jazz Society opened its 2015-16 season with a concert that celebrated the depth and breadth of the jazz canon with creative performances by two very different bands. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Exploring the Great American and Jazz Songbooks

Danny Sinoff
Singer-pianist Danny Sinoff let his piano chops carry most of the load Thursday when his trio opened the South County Jazz Club's 2015-2016 matinee season at the Venice (FL) Art Center. While he is busy with steady club gigs, principally in Fort Myers and Port Charlotte, this was Sinoff's first appearance in Venice.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ninety birthday candles – and an extended season of birthday wishes

George Wein
 When you are turning 90, the celebration begins early. So jazz festival producer George Wein certainly can have a 90th birthday event this Friday, October 2, even though he was born on October 3, 1925.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Jazz has lost another true master - Phil Woods

Phil Woods
Word spread very quickly through the jazz community this afternoon that alto saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master (Class of 2007) Phil Woods passed away today. He was 83

Friday, September 18, 2015

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Joe Alterman, Don Braden, Laszlo Gardony, Paul Keeling and Wolfgang Lackerschmid….

Monday, September 7, 2015

Jazz loses one of its great advocates

Tom the Jazzman at Newport, 8-31-2015
Jazz lost one of its finest ambassadors this holiday weekend. Broadcaster "Tom the Jazzman" Mallison died overnight in a head-on collision as he was driving home to Greenville after his weekly Sunday night radio show on North Carolina's Eastern Public Radio. He had been a steady volunteer broadcaster on the station in New Bern for more than 30 years.

Mallison was a great friend, as well as a tremendous advocate for and promoter of jazz - and a mentor to many younger jazz broadcasters around the country. He was a faithful attendee at the Newport Jazz Festival each summer for several decades. His jazz knowledge and his gentle spirit will be missed at festivals, conferences and seminars galore, and his soothing voice will be missed by his many Eastern Public Radio fans.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The fine art of musical conversation

William Evans
Subbing for vacationing drummer-singer Patricia Dean's band, pianist William Evans brought his Tampa Bay-area trio to JD's Bistro & Grille in Port Charlotte FL Thursday night, September 2, for what turned out to be a top-flight night of music.

Detroit native Evans splits his time between Florida's Gulf Coast and Basel, Switzerland, where he's a longtime faculty member at the Swiss Jazz School. Evans' band mates on Thursday were two other very fine Tampa Bay-area players, bassist Joe Porter and drummer John Jenkins.