Thursday, June 25, 2015

What a wonderful change of pace

The jazz concert season is pretty much gone in Florida from May until the snowbirds start returning in the fall. While there are regular club and restaurant gigs to fill in the gap, it was a treat to have an actual concert to attend.
Najar, Lamb, Feinman, Suggs, Ellison

The Venice Art Center and the South County Jazz Club teamed up to present a Louis Armstrong tribute concert on Thursday, June 25, featuring a quintet led by fine young trumpeter James Suggs. He's an engaging player with family roots in Newport RI, but who grew up in Ohio. He moved to St. Petersburg area in 2014 after having spent the prior eight years living and working in Argentina.

Tom Ellison, James Suggs, Brian Hughes
Suggs was backed by Southwest Florida jazz stalwarts Nate Najar on guitar, John Lamb on bass, Mark Feinman on drums and the versatile reed player Tom Ellison on clarinet. Brian Hughes provided vocals on five  tunes.

The concert underscored just how much music associated with Armstrong is embedded in the foundation of jazz and American culture. ""I love Louis Armstrong, I always have," Suggs told the audience, a full house of about 170. "He's just one of those guys who's iconic. He is one of the best the world has ever seen." Suggs' speaking about Armstrong in the present tense made sense, given the entertainer's enduring legacy 44 years after his death on July 6, 1971.

The evening's repertoire included "West End Blues," "Struttin' With Some Barbecue,"  "Basin Street Blues," "When It's Sleepytime Down South," "St. James Infirmary," La Vie En Rose," "Mack the Knife and, of course, "When the Saints Go Marching In," among others. The band's version of "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" was exquisite. Ellison had a fine clarinet feature on "I'm Confessin' That I Love You."

Sharon Preston-Folta, Louis Armstrong's daughter from a 20-year sometimes turbulent affair the trumpeter had with her mother, was on hand to sign copies of her book, "Little Satchmo: Living in the Shadow of My Father, Louis Daniel Armstrong."  She now lives in Sarasota.

In brief intermission remarks, she said Armstrong took she and her mother on summer tours with him when she was ages 3-7, bought her mother a house and supported them. She said she last saw him when she was 13, not too long before his health failed and he passed away.

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