Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reaching out to casual jazz listeners

Guitarist and singer Tony Boffa has an easy-going way of drawing listeners to jazz, whether they realize it - or not.

Tony Boffa
While he was working in the Portland, Maine area as a music educator for many years, he also had his own in-demand band that played weddings and jazz gigs dating to the mid-1970s. Since retiring to southwest Florida in 2014, Boffa, 65, has been playing jazz exclusively, but drawing on his immense repertoire to build a musical bridge for casual listeners.

He's the Saturday night headliner at JD's Bistro in Port Charlotte FL, an upscale gourmet restaurant that features jazz six nights a week. It has an atmosphere rivaling the finest New York City supper clubs. He also performs on Fridays at the Roadhouse Cafe in Fort Myers.

You'll hear a few jazz chestnuts or standards from the Great American Songbook - rarely repeated from week to week or even month to month. Scattered among them, and just as prevalent, are songs drawn from the pop, rock and blues repertoires.
Mac Chrupcala, Tony Boffa

Examples? A couple of Saturdays ago, Boffa included the Harry Belafonte hit "Jamaica Farewell," Delbert McClinton's "Got To Get It Worked On" and two classic TV theme songs: one from "I Love Lucy" and "Those Were The Days" from "All in the Family."

Listeners are familiar with the original versions, but have never heard them in this context - arranged as jazz instrumentals and featuring extended, improvised solos. Even the members of his backing trio have never played a lot of these gems in a jazz context before. 

That concept keeps the band fresh and lively in the same way that Boffa has made jazz more accessible and interesting for a wide range of listeners. He delivers his music with an engaging but not overbearing vocal style, and excellent mainstream guitar chops. And the band stretches out mightily.


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