Thursday, January 31, 2019

Looking ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through March.

  • Sunday, February 3, 2019 – The Terry Myers Orchestra’s tribute to Benny Goodman. Venice Performing Arts Center. Venice,  2 p.m.
  • Peter & Will Anderson
    Wednesday, February 6 – Trombonist Andy Martin guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2018-2019 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, February 11 – Twin saxophonists Peter and Will Anderson perform in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series. William H. Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 13 – The Eddie Metz-Nicki Parrott-Rossano Sportiello trio. A South County Jazz Club concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center. Sarasota. 8 p.m.
  • Friday, February 15 – Senegalese percussionist Aiyb Dieng & Friends perform in the Jazzy Nights concert series. Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Fort Myers. 7 p.m.
  • Friday, February 15 – Pianist Herbie Hancock in concert. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 23 – The 14th annual Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival features saxophonist Gerald Albright, The Sax Pack (Jeff Kashiwa, Steve Cole and Kim Waters) and guitarist Matt Marshak. This has always been a smooth jazz event. Albright’s versatility and chops mean you might hear some real jazz for a change. Laishley Park, Punta Gorda. The music starts at 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 27 – Trumpeter Chuck Findley guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2018-2019 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, March 1 – Singer Michael Feinstein with special guest Laura Osnes. Hayes Hall, Artis-Naples. 8 p.m.
    Roxy Coss
  • Wednesday, March 6 to Saturday March 9 – 39th annual Sarasota Jazz Festival. The talent lineup for this “Generations of Jazz”-themed event includes Shelly Berg, Randy Brecker, Bill Charlap, Roxy Coss, Dick Hyman, musical director and reed player Ken Peplowski, Houston Person, Randy Sandke, Mary Stallings, the University of Miami Big Band, and many others. Hyatt Regency Sarasota.
  • Monday, March 11 – Pianist Jim Roberts’ Saxtet performs in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series. William H. Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 24 – The Four Freshmen in concert. A South County Jazz Club concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center. Sarasota. 2 p.m.
Several local venues (including J.D.’s in Port Charlotte; 88 Keys Florida and The Blue Turtle in Punta Gorda; Amore, the Art Ovation Hotel and the Starlite Room in Sarasota; The Roadhouse and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Fort Myers;, and Slate’s in Cape Coral), 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.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Have chops, will travel

Rising-star jazz singer Veronica Swift is quite the traveler.

She disembarked from The Jazz Cruise on Saturday, January 26 in Fort Lauderdale. Her Sunday afternoon gig was a mere 200 miles away in Sarasota, a relatively short three-hour journey across Alligator Alley and up Interstate 75.

Veronica Swift
But she took a different, 5,200-mile, route. Swift hopped a plane to Los Angeles, performed Saturday night with trumpeter Chris Botti, then took a red-eye flight back to Florida for her matinee performance with the Jeff Rupert quartet. She was jet lagged and ship lagged, but not at all jazz lagged.

“It feels like I’m coming home, because these guys are like family,” Swift said. The South County Jazz Club performance at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center teamed her with Rupert, pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Ben Kramer and drummer Marty Morell.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Jazz at sea with healthy doses of Latin flavor

Anybody who didn’t hear enough music aboard the 2019 edition of The Jazz Cruise only has themselves to blame. The offerings were plentiful and varied, with music running from 11:30 a.m. to after 1 a.m., with staggered programming in five different performance spaces. There were more than 100 jazz musicians in the lineup, and about 2,000 passengers aboard the m/s Celebrity Infinity.

The cruise departed Fort Lauderdale FL on Saturday, January 19 and returned a week later after brief stops in St. Croix, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Labadee, Haiti. Clearly, most folks aboard were there for the music. It was the 19th annual cruise, and more than a few passengers have been on most of them. 

Vald├ęs, DeFrancesco, Shaheed
This year’s personal treats:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Frost Band heats things up

The Mike Frost Band was a pleasant surprise at the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s January 14 concert in Port Charlotte, stepping boldly into more contemporary genres while also digging deep into the mainstream jazz canon.
Mike Frost
This was the Aiken, South Carolina-based group’s first appearance in Port Charlotte – and in Florida, for that matter. The unit featured leader Mike Frost on 4- and 5-string electric basses; Lauren Meccia on alto and saxophones, wind synthesizer and vocals; Shannon Pinckney on piano and electric keyboard; and Ron Green on drums.

Lauren Meccia
The quartet skillfully blended jazz and the jazz sensibility with a bit of Latin, some pop classics and even a taste of rhythm & blues. The result underscored that fact that jazz is a musical process, not a specific repertoire. It’s not what you play, it’s how you play it. Their polished blend of contemporary jazz and updates of some familiar classics worked well – because the players delivered the goods.

The standards scattered throughout their two sets included “That Old Black Magic,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” How High the Moon,” “Night and Day” and Paul Desmond’s “Take Five," dropping in a few bars of the "Theme from Mission Impossible" to add a novel twist to the Dave Brubeck quartet’s signature tune. There were a few more-modern jazz pieces: Chick Corea’s exotic “Spain” and a Herbie Hancock medley featuring “Cantaloupe Island” and “Watermelon Man.”

Monday, January 14, 2019

Four Others - and more

A few years ago, Marian’s Jazzroom in Switzerland asked Harry Allen to put together a four-saxophone band for its Bern Jazz Festival. He quickly thought of the classic sound of the Four Brothers sax section from Woody Herman’s Second Herd in the late 1940s. That renowned unit featured tenor players Stan Getz, Zoot Sims and Herbie Steward, and baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff. With no alto players in the mix, the rich, deep sound of the unison horns stood out on the big band circuit.
Harry Allen

Seventy years later, Allen is keeping that zesty spirit alive without taking a repertory approach. In his mind, there’s no need to re-create something if you can’t improve upon it. So he took the opposite tack - bringing that sound to new audiences with his own fine arrangements and a wider range of material.

His Four Others project got its latest showcase on Sunday, January 13, at a South County Jazz Club performance at the Glenridge Performing Center in Sarasota, a 200-seat acoustic marvel. His all-star band included fellow tenorists Jeff Rupert and Lew Del Gatto, baritone saxophonist Mike Brignola, pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Don Mopsick and drummer Marty Morell.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Swinging style and bebopping finesse

Stephanie Nakasian has had many facets to her career. She was a banker in Chicago and Manhattan. Then she caught the jazz bug. She heard bebop pianist Hod O’Brien, started working with him a bit in 1980 and a year later quit her day job to become a full-time singer. 

Stephanie Nakasian
She built her chops as a two-year member of the vocal group, Jon Hendricks and Company. She married O’Brien, and figured out how to balance motherhood, performing (often with her husband) and a long career as a music educator at the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary. These days, she’s known to some as rising star jazz vocalist Veronica Swift’s mother.

On Friday, February 11, Nakasian’s quartet performance in Venice FL illuminated her vocal artistry. The wide-ranging program was a palette for her swinging style and bebopping finesse. Her scatting was never overdone. She used it sparingly – and effectively – to put a different twist on familiar fare. She also put a fine spin on several tunes that aren't heard much today.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

There's jazz in his blood

Pianist Rony Khoury hails from the Dominican Republic, where his sheer talent at the keyboard has caught many an eye - and ear. With good reason.

Rony Khoury
He visited Port Charlotte this week for a showcase performance - a brief stopover en route to Boston, where he's going to study at the Berklee College of Music. He won a half-scholarship to Berklee through the Michel Camilo Scholarship Competition, which is open to student musicians from the Dominican Republic. 

Isaac Mingus
Khoury, 28, performed in a trio format at J.D.'s Bistro with bassist Isaac Mingus and drummer Mark De Rose. Mingus, a recent grad of the State College of Florida in Bradenton who now studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville, is a classical and jazz bassist and cellist. De Rosa, a Berklee grad who spent a lot of time working in Japan, is now based on the Florida east coast.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Covering the jazz waterfront

After forty-plus years on the New York jazz scene, trumpeter Randy Sandke has made himself a new home base in Southwest Florida. He moved to Venice a few months ago and has settled into the fertile area jazz scene.
Randy Sandke

While he has had some gigs as a sideman, Sunday, January 6 brought his first area concert as a bandleader. And a fine one it was. His quintet included saxophonist Peter BarenBregge, pianist Joe Delaney, bassist Don Mopsick and drummer David Pruyn – with Sandke acknowledging them as “stalwarts of the Florida jazz scene.”

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Year in Jazz

All About Jazz has just posted the newest edition of my annual comprehensive compilation of goings on in jazz.

The year 2018 was a busy one for the jazz world.

The genre's version of the #MeToo movement resulted in a new Code of Conduct and other efforts to make the music workplace more equitable. International Jazz Day brought its biggest stage to St. Petersburg, Russia. The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, which ran a high-profile performance competition for more than 30 years and co-produces International Jazz Day, announced a significant name change.

The New Orleans financial scandal focusing on trumpeter Irvin Mayfield saw its indictments expanded twice. The National Endowment for the Arts welcomed four new New Jazz Masters and the jazz world said farewell to five others who were among the many musicians and industry-associated figures who passed away during the year.

You can dig into all of it here.