Saturday, December 24, 2016

May you have a merry - and jazzy - Christmas

Best wishes to you. your friends and families for a very Merry Christmas 2016, joyous New Year - and hopeful 2017 - 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, whatever your favorite libation!

The holiday season would not be complete without the delightful animated video of The Platters’ doo-wopping their way through “White Christmas” with feeling. This animated cartoon by Joshua Held is excellent - and quite special.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Celebrating a Brazilian jazz legacy

There is something mighty special about Brazilian music. The pulse of its varied rhythms, the sensuous sway of its melodies and the textures of its exotic percussion combine in ways that touch the heart – and soul – of the listener. Those qualities were on full display Sunday, December 18 at the Tampa Jazz Club’s Manfredo Fest tribute concert at Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor campus.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan digs a jazzy Christmas

Ira Sullivan
Ira Sullivan was in a holiday frame of mind for his sextet appearance at the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert series Monday, December 12 in Port Charlotte. The jazz veteran dug into five seasonal classics before sharing other facets of his repertoire. Before the night was done, nearly half of the concert included gems related to winter or Christmas.

Sullivan's band for the evening included trombonist Dante Luciani, Marc Berner on flute, pocket trumpet and saxophones, pianist Jerry Stawski, bassist Vince Evans and drummer Barry Smith.

Friday, December 9, 2016

A swinging, sophisticated romp through West Coast Jazz

Trombonist-composer-arranger Dick Hamilton has a thing for West Coast Jazz, no matter how you define it. He grew up in Sarasota, Florida on the west coast of Florida, where as a teenager in the 1950s, he was drawn to the sounds of cool jazz coming out of the west coast of the U.S. - i.e., California. The music of Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck and Shorty Rogers, among others.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Digging into classic Miles

James Suggs
Twenty-five years after he left the planet, Miles Davis's music lives on. His classic jazz material was on full display Wednesday night at the Venice Art Center in a concert by trumpeter James Suggs' quintet. The band dug into material from his cool, modal and hard bop periods from the 1950s and early 1960s.

The band's performance, co-sponsored by the South County Jazz Club, drew a full house of 160 in the center's main gallery. Suggs' band include tenor saxophonist Jeremy Carter, pianist John O'Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Looking back at the year's best jazz recordings

‘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 listened to during the year.* Bottom line, all are extremely subjective.

Monday, November 28, 2016

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Alyssa Allgood, Dave Anderson, Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, Frank Kimbrough, Oleg Kireyev & Keith Javors, and the U.S. Army Blues Swamp Romp ….

Friday, November 25, 2016

Whitney James excels with her tight jazz trio

Catching very fine live jazz is a great way to avoid Black Friday madness. 

Whitney James
St. Petersburg-based singer Whitney James delivered the goods on Friday, November 25 in her first visit to the Jazz Club of Sarasota's Jazz at Two matinee series at Unitarian Universalist Church in Sarasota.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Looking ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

The 2016-17 jazz concert season 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.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A stunning return by a crafty jazz band

Jim Roberts
You experience far more than great playing when pianist Jim Roberts brings his sextet to town. That was clear on Monday, November 14 when Orlando-based Roberts performed at the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert series with his Saxtet.
Danny Jordan

The band features three reed players:  Danny Jordan, Rex Wertz and David MacKenzie - all doubling on sax and flute. They are backed by Roberts, bassist Charlie Silva and drummer Eddie Metz Jr. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Opening Day for South County Jazz Club's 2016-17 season

Two days after baseball concluded its year with a historic Chicago Cubs win in the World Series, the South County Jazz Club featured trombonist Greg Nielsen's quartet for the opening of its 2016-17 concert season.
Greg Nielsen

Nielsen, a 30-years-plus music educator at Sarasota's Booker Middle School, is one of the most versatile musicians around. Trombone is his main instrument, but he also brought his flugelhorn and trumpet. Somehow he forgot the double-belled euphonium that he also plays on occasion.

His band for this event featured bassist Don Mopsick, drummer-vocalist David Pruyn and a pleasant surprise at the piano: Danny Sinoff. Eddie Tobin had been advertised for the gig, but somehow double-booked himself - and had a simultaneous gig of his own in Sarasota.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wine and jazz - in Bordeaux

Ah, the places you find jazz when you least expect it. That's all the more reason to cherish the moment. We're just back from a 10-day Bordeaux river cruise with stops at significant historic sites and world-class wine-making chateaus along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and the Geronde Estuary. TV travel journalist Burt Wolf hosted the trip.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Charlotte County Jazz Society season opener

The Charlotte County Jazz Society opened its 2016-17 season with a double concert that presented a blend of Dixieland/mainstream jazz followed by a strong taste of Brazilian jazz. The October 10 event was held at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County.

Monday, October 10, 2016

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Carol Bach-y-Rita, Winston Byrd, Synia Carroll, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Gabriel Espinoza and the late Erroll Garner….

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Profiling singer Jane Monheit

Jane Monheit, Tanglewood 2010
The October issue of HotHouse is now out. It includes my profile of singer Jane Monheit, which you can find on p. 21 of the publication. 

Check it out to learn more about this passionate ambassador of the Great American Songbook. Her take on that responsibility is very interesting.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Boxing Miles

Miles Davis, 1986*
Jazz legend Miles Davis passed away 25 years ago today at age 65. On September 28, 1991, less than eight weeks after historic concerts in Montreux, Switzerland and Paris in which he revisited classic material, he died in a southern California hospital of pneumonia and heart failure. In addition to being a trumpeter, bandleader and style shaper, he had a strong interest in boxing - and worked out in the ring to keep fit.It hardly seems possible he’s been gone a quarter century. 

One reason is the continued high profile of his music. Within five years of his passing, the labels with which Davis was affiliated began reissue projects of just about everything available from his multi-faceted career. The prolific variety of at least 25 boxed sets and reissues may seem overwhelming to casual fans, but the relentless boxing of Miles is a delight to the jazz world’s compleatists, or at least the Davis contingent. And for that, Miles might smile, or not.

A lengthy rundown of those projects follows.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CD projects by A.G.N.Z., Aziza, Joe Mulholland and Ted Nash....

A.G.N.Z., ChanceMeeting, (Whaling City Sound)
This band of savvy jazz veterans came together for the first time on a club stage in Providence RI in July 2014 and discovered a great musical chemistry. So the four – guitarist Jay Azzolina, tenor saxophonist Dino Govoni, drummer Adam Nussbaum and bassist Dave Zinno – decided to schedule a studio date a few months later. This excellent modern take on jazz is the result. All four players brought in original compositions with a variety of moods – and these chance band mates find spirited common ground throughout. 

The band has a wonderful energetic groove, drawn from the same kind of experimental chemistry of the finest fusion groups. There is a strong emotional imprint of the late saxophonist Michael Brecker here. Govoni, a Boston-based reed player heavily influenced by the Brecker sound, first heard him live about 25 years ago at a gig on which Nussbaum was the drummer. Azzolina, for many years a neighbor of Brecker’s, used to jam with him informally in his basement on many an afternoon. Favorite tracks: Govoni’s poignant “Lament for Michael Brecker,” Azzolina’s high-flying “1 of 3” and Nussbaum’s teasing “My Maia.” Also dig the band’s playful back-and-forth on Govoni’s frisky “N.T.I.”

Aziza, Aziza (Dare2) 
The players in this modern jazz supergroup named their band after a mythical African god of inspiration. The quartet includes saxophonist Chris Potter, guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Eric Harland, who have worked with each other previously in a variety of contexts. Potter, for example, has been a regular member of Holland’s bands for two decades. Their eponymous recording debut in this grouping is a gem of varying moods. They show great creativity in exploring the two tunes apiece that each player brought in for development in the band’s distinctive sound. 

There is much to savor: the frisky energy of Loueke’s “Sleepless Night,” the multi-dimensional subtleties of Harland’s “Aquila,” and the conversational combination of Holland’s bass work and Potter’s soprano sax solo on Holland’s “Finding the Light,” and the Caribbean feel propelling Potter’s “Summer 15.” As his soloing shows throughout the project, and particularly on his own “Blue Sufi” and Holland’s “Walkin’ The Walk,” Potter seems to be emerging as a clear successor to Sonny Rollins as the most creative, forceful and versatile saxophonist in mainstream jazz. He’s  reached today’s upper echelon at the very least.

Joe Mulholland Trio, Runaway Train (Zoho)
Boston-based pianist and music educator Joe Mulholland doesn’t record often, but he does it well. His latest, a trio session featuring longtime band mates Bob Neiske (bass) and Bob Tamagni (drums), is a case in point. This both a swinging and cerebral jazz date, highlighted by Mulholland’s six original compositions and three covers of classics by Miles Davis, Jimmy Giuffre, and the songwriting  tandem of Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. 

On the title track, Mulholland uses the chord changes from John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” to transform the standard 12-bar progression as the band rolls through this hard-driving blues. That contrasts with his cover of the Davis tune a teasing, languid exploration of “Nardis.” The Brazilian-tinged “The Same Sky” is a thing of beauty. “Summer Nights” showcases the beautiful playing of all three musicians. Mulholland’s “Phrenology” is a whimsical bebop romp.

Ted Nash Big Band, Presidential Suite (Eight Variations on Freedom) (Motéma) 
Two months before what may be the most pivotal U.S. presidential election in our lifetimes, saxophonist Ted Nash offers us a profound musical reminder about the values of freedom and democracy around the globe. His Presidential Suite, commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center, features eight compositions, plus a mood-setting overture) that he wrote to complement an equal number of the most profound presidential/national leadership speeches given ‘round the world. On disc one, the music follows the words that inspired it. Those speech excerpts are narrated by contemporary arts or political figures. They include former Sen. Joe Lieberman, author Deepak Chopra, former Ambassador Andrew Young, and actors Glenn Close and Sam Waterston. Disc two features just the music.

The material at the heart of the project includes JFK’s “Ask Not” speech, Nehru’s 1947 “Tryst with Destiny” speech, Franklin Roosevelt’s “The Four Freedoms” speech, Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches,” LBJ’s 1965 address to Congress on the equal voting rights, and Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech in Berlin in 1987. Two other gems include Myanmar political leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Freedom From Fear” essay, recast hear as “Water in Cupped Hands” – and read by Close; and the big band’s joyous musical take on Nelson Mandela’s first inaugural address as the first black president of South Africa. “The Time for the Healing of the Wounds” is a stunning work following Young’s narration of this 1994 speech.

Many of the band members, including Nash, are members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Soloists featured on the nine musical tracks include pianist Dan Nimmer, trumpeters Ryan Kisor, Greg Gisbert, Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Printup and Kenny Rampton, saxophonists Nash, Sherman Irby and Joe Temperley, and trombonist/vocalist Chris Crenshaw. 

 It’s a critical time to revisit the profound wisdom found in all of these celebrated words, which Nash describes as “timeless variations on freedom. It’s our privilege and responsibility as artists and as citizens to remind our leaders of what is important.”

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview (updated)

The 2016-17 jazz concert season soon will heat up - and 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 November.

  • Friday, September 9 – Heat Latin Jazz Band, the Sidney & Berne Davis Arts Center, Fort Myers. 8 p.m.
    Herb Bruce
  • Monday, October 10 – Trombonist Herb Bruce’s Herbicide Jazz Band and the St. Petersburg-based O Som Do Jazz open the Charlotte County Jazz Society‘s 2016-2017 Artists Series with a double concert featuring mainstream/Dixieland and Latin jazz. Cultural Center of Charlotte County, Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 15 – Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis's Quartet in concert. Center for the Performing Arts, Bonita Springs, 8 p.m.
  •  Wednesday, November 2 – Trumpeter Wallace Roney joins the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra for the sextet’s  season-opening All That Jazz concert. Daniels Pavilion, 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 3 – Watch the 2015 Oscar-winning Best Picture “Birdman” with Grammy-winning drummer Antonio Sanchez performing his score live, Straz Center, Tampa, 8 p.m.
    Valerie Gillespie
  • Saturday, November 12 – Saxophonist-singer Valerie Gillespie & trumpeter John DePaola perform the Music of Jazz Legends - Nat & Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota. 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday, November 14 – Pianist Jim Roberts’ Saxtet. Charlotte County Jazz Society‘s Artists Series. Cultural Center of Charlotte County, Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 16 – Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra for an All That Jazz concert. Daniels Pavilion, 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, November  17 – An Evening of Gypsy Jazz with Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, November 27 – The Dave Koz “smooth jazz” Christmas tour, with Jonathan Butler, Kenny Lattimore and singer Valerie Simpson. Hayes Hall, 7 p.m.

Several local restaurants (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte, Fandango in Sarasota, The Roadhouse and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Ft. Myers and, starting this month, The Side Door Jazz Club at Slate’s in Cape Coral, offer jazz steadily). A variety of  Friday 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, August 23, 2016

CDs of Note – Short Takes

Taking a look at new CD projects by Ken Fowser, the Eric Hargett trio, Kirk MacDonald, and Omar Sosa & Paolo Fresu.…

Ken Fowser, Standing Tall (Posi-Tone)
If you dug the funky grooves and unbridled swing of some of the great jazz quintets of the 1960s – think the Adderley Brothers and Horace Silver’s bands – chances are you’ll very much dig the contemporary tangent offered by tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser. His 2016 release Standing Tall is a gem. His exploration of a dozen original tunes is also a showcase for the chemistry and chops of his working band with trumpeter Josh Bruneau, pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Paul Gill and drummer Jason Tiemann. Favorite tracks: the title track, “Head Start,” the pensive “Filling in the Blanks,” the gorgeous ballad “Hanging On” and the McCoy Tyner’ish ”More For Red.” The closing track, “Somebody Got to Do It,” is loaded with Horace Silver swagger.

Eric Hargett Trio, Steppin’ Up (Whaling City Sound)
For a debut recording, saxophonist Eric Hargett has splendid company in his trio-mates, B-3 player Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Gerry Gibbs. With a bit more maturity as a player, he may even grow out of the tendency to over-play. Too often, it feels like he never took heed of Miles Davis’ wisdom that what you don’t play is even more important than what you do play. Occasionally, the notes pouring forth from his tenor or baritone sax carry the moment. How can you not want to burn trough a melody when there’s a searing B-3 solo right around the corner? Hargett rarely lets up. But he does rein it in substantially on two lovely ballads – “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and his own “Myra’s Song.” On the latter, Los Angeles-based Hargett also doubles on vibes. This is a young talent to keep an eye on.

Kirk MacDonald, Symmetry (Addo)
Toronto-based saxophonist Kirk MacDonald recorded this fine group in 2013 but the session initially was released just in Canada. Fortunately, Addo Records decided to distribute it internationally this year. MacDonald’s quintet includes trumpeter Tom Harrell, pianist Brian Dickinson, bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Dennis Mackrel. For this, MacDonald’s 13th recording session as a leader, the saxophonist decided to write material that emerged from his conceptions of “symmetry” in music. The entire CD is quite powerful. The true gem is its longest exploration – a bubbling 9:36 take called “Mackrel’s Groove.”  This session is proof that quality jazz is timeless – and has an inherent freshness.

Omar Sosa & Paolo Fresu, Eros (Otá)
Pianist Omar Sosa and trumpeter Paolo Fresu have developed a most simpatico musical relationship. Their latest project is a suite of music that focuses on the facets and mysteries of love. While the session’s participants also include cellist Jacques Morelenbaum and Maghreb singer Natacha Atlas, plus Italy’s Alborada String Quartet, it is Fresu and Sosa whose musical personalities dominate. At times, their collaboration draws aural comparison to the electronic jazz that fascinated Miles Davis in the mid-to-late 1980s. Favorite tracks: Fresu’s compositions””Zeus’ Desires” and Eros Mediterraneo,” Sosa’s “La Llamada” and their exquisite instrumental cover of Peter Gabriel’s “What Lies Ahead.” This is a September 16 release

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Newport Jazz Festival delivers again (updated)

Even though it's the granddaddy of America's outdoor music festivals, the Newport Jazz Festival doesn't take that pedigree lightly. It keeps delivering terrific jazz - of all stripes - in a postcard-perfect setting that has a breathtaking view of Newport harbor.
Tierney Sutton

The 2016 edition, held last weekend (July 29-31), offered several new music premieres by Darcy James Argue's Secret Society big band, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry, among others.
Charles Lloyd

Kamasi Washington
It also brought first-time Newport appearances by pianist Monty Alexander's band (heck, he's only 72), the exquisite singer Tierney Sutton, the grooving New Orleans jam band Galactic, pianists Henry Butler, Sullivan Fortner and Rossano Sportiello, and saxophonist Kamasi Washington. There were more new delights, too numerous to mention.

Washington performed twice with his band, providing a Friday highlight on the main stage and a different set altogether on Sunday on the more-intimate tented Quad Stage. It was easy to hear why his debut recording, 2015's 3-CD The Epic ranked at the top of so many year-end critics polls. Four other stupendous sets: Henry Butler-Steven Bernstein and The Hot 9, the Joe Lovano-Chris Potter-Lionel Loueke-Eric Harland superband, Edmar Castaneda's World Ensemble, and the soulful jazz singer Gregory Porter.
Chick Corea

Pianist Chick Corea's Trilogy, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, opened Friday's downtown Newport evening program at historic Newport Casino (the festival's birthplace in 1954), and performed again on Saturday at Fort Adams. McBride succeeds founder George Wein as the festival's artistic director beginning with 2017's programming.

Toshiko Akiyoshi
There were homecoming moments as well - none more poignant than Toshiko Akiyoshi's solo piano set on the indoor Storyville club stage - 60 years after making her Newport Jazz Festival debut while a student at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

The weekend weather was hot and humid for the most part, after a Friday morning-early afternoon downpour decided to skip town far earlier - and faster than predicted. Saturday's program was sold out. 

This was the first time in at least 20 years that the festival had drawn 10,000 people to Fort Adams State Park, though the Newport Folk Festival has had daily sellouts for several years. Credit the July 30 sellout largely to an appearance by singer-pianist Norah Jones.

I'm sharing a few photos to whet your visual appetites. A more extensive variety of my images is posted at