Thursday, February 28, 2019

Two Trumpets, No Waiting

Los Angeles-based trumpeter Chuck Findley was the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra’s special guest on Wednesday, February 27 as part of the sextet’s 2018-19 concert series. Amid all of the polished playing and musical firepower, he and trumpeter Dan Miller quickly turned the evening into a mutual admiration event at Artis-Naples' Daniels Pavilion.

Chuck Findley

That feeling was most apparent as the band tackled Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island,” trombonist (and longtime Findley collaborator) Matt Finders’ blues composition “Two Trumpets, No Waiting,” and Findley and Miller’s more-nuanced exploration of "Joy Spring." This version of trumpeter Clifford Brown’s jazz classic teamed them with just the rhythm section. 
Dan Miller
All evening, as one of the trumpeters took a solo, the other watched and listened in rapt admiration. Their unison work on melodic lines was exquisite.

Findley was featured on several tunes, playing the mellower flugelhorn on the Bruno Martino ballad “Estate” and on the standard “Star Eyes.”

Findley, Miller
The band also dug into Jerome Kern’s “The Song is You,” Miles Davis’s arrangement of Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” and “What a Wonderful World.” The NPJO includes Miller, tenor saxophonist and artistic director Lew Del Gatto, violinist Glenn Basham, pianist Jerry Stawski, bassist Kevin Mauldin and drummer Mike Harvey.

Findley, a longtime studio ace, began his career with stints in the Jimmy Dorsey Band and the Buddy Rich Band before joining “The Tonight Show Band” led by Doc Severinsen during the Johnny Carson era. He also played in “The Tonight Show Band” led by Branford Marsalis and later Kevin Eubanks during the Jay Leno era.

Findley, Del Gatto

He has known 25-year “Saturday Night Band” alumnus Del Gatto for many years, but this was the first time they’d seen each other, or played together, since 1966. Back then, Findley was in the Buddy Rich Band and Del Gatto had joined the band as a two-week substitute.

Miller had met Findley several times over the years but this splendid night, bringing out the best in each soloist, was the first time they had performed together.

Kevin Mauldin

Glenn Basham
Lew Del Gatto
The sextet's next concert, on Wednesday, April 24, features rising-star singer Veronica Swift.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Time flies when you're having fun

Drummer Al Hixon has been hosting weekly jam sessions in or near Sarasota for about 30 years that draw an interesting blend of consummate jazz pros, amateurs and devoted listeners. The latest incarceration takes place Monday nights from October through May at 15 South Ristorante Entoteca on St. Armand's Circle. 
Al Hixon

The retired landscape architect and land planner from southern New England also treats area jazz societies at least once a year to appearances by his Underheard Herd. That band includes a few mainstays - former Ellington bassist John Lamb and pianist Dick Reynolds, who was the house pianist at Mr. Kelly's in Chicago for many years.
Dick Reynolds

Dick Hamilton, Jim Wellen
The rest of the band changes from appearance to appearance, as Hixon shines the spotlight on a variety of players that he likes - sometimes in fresh combinations - or newcomers that he feels should be heard by more ears. He's as much a talent scout as a timekeeper.

On Friday, February 22, his Underheard Herd performed for the South County Jazz Club in Venice FL. Besides Lamb and Reynolds, it included trombonist Dick Hamilton, tenor saxophonist Jim Wellen and singer Debbie Keeton. There were also two unexpected treats who had found their way onto Hixon's musical radar at 15 South.  

Rick Aaron
Jonah Kreitner
Those cameo performers were Milwaukee-based flutist Rick Aaron, who has joined the flock of snowbirds who head to Florida for some of the winter months, and Jonah Kreitner, a 16-year-old violinist who attends Hunter College High School in New York. Kreitner happened to be in town visiting his grandparents.

The afternoon featured a lot of band flexibility. There were some quintet pieces, a few quartet pieces featuring one of the horn players with the rhythm section, some solo piano artistry from Reynolds, and even some solos or duos by Lamb, the latter with Wellen.

Favorite moments: 
  • Reynolds' classically-tinged exploration of "My Funny Valentine," mining a lot of fresh nuances from this jazz staple. 
  • Hamilton's features, which underscored his talent as a top-notch jazz arranger: "I Thought About You" and Harold Arlen's "A Sleepin' Bee."
  • Kreitner's versions of "If I Were a Bell" and "No Greater Love" with the trio.
  • Aaron's beautiful flute work on "Beautiful Love" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." He was enjoying the 85-degrees and sunny afternoon in Venice, noting it was -7 in Milwaukee that morning.
  • Wellen's breezy bossa nova take on "All or Nothing at All" and his center-stage  tenor-bass duet with Lamb on "Pick Yourself Up."
Al Hixon, John Lamb
Debbie Keeton
Keeton joined the quintet for "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," "Lullaby of Birdland" and a bluesy afternoon closer.

The concert was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice.
Hamilton, Keeton, Reynolds, Wellen

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Musical love takes many forms

Music has been called the universal language, capable of bringing together people of many different countries, cultures and genres. West African percussionist Aiyb Dieng also considers it an expression of love uniting performers with each other - and with their listeners.

Dieng, a native of Senegal, has worked with a wide range of musicians, including  Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, Bill Laswell, Bob Marley and Herbie Hancock. The list also includes Karl Berger, who founded Woodstock NY's eclectic, avant garde-tinged Creative Music Studio in 1972 with his wife, singer Ingrid Sertso, and encouragement from Ornette Coleman.

Aiyb Dieng
Dieng shared his music in three different formats on Friday, February 15, at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in downtown Fort Myers FL. His huge arsenal of drums and other hand percussion instruments, surrounding him on racks and tables. were at the heart of it all, even when he had some help from two different groups of musical friends.

Clint Robinson
The program began with four or five solo percussion numbers, as Dieng improvised moods and exotic melodies on his drums, shakers, other noisemakers and a musical bow.

The evening took the first of two sharp turns when he brought three other players to the stage for a healthy dose of Jamaican music, a tip of the hat perhaps to his association with Marley. It started, quite appropriately, with Marley's "One Love," included a reggae version of "If I Were a Carpenter" and closed with Marley's "Rasta Man Chant" - its poignant "Fly Away Home to Zion" lyrics delivered by singer Clint Robinson and keyboardist-singer Dave Walker.

Amina Claudine Myers
Rachella Parks-Washington
The second set was nothing like the first, as Dieng went into "free jazz" mode with some creative music notables: Hammond B-3 organist Amina Claudine Myers, tenor saxophonist Rachella Parks-Washington, violinist Charles Burnham, electric bassist Ted Myerson and drummer Pheeroan akLaff. 

Charles Burnham
Pheeroan akLaff
Together, they roared through a half-dozen extended pieces, each taking solos but also blending their individual sounds into the thick musical conversation. Dieng shifted from one drum, gong or shaker to another before returning to his congas and bata drum. No vocals, no song introductions. Just sharing their instrumental harmony.

That feeling floated out into the audience, which seemed spellbound by the moment and answered that message of love with an enthusiastic ovation. 

Parks-Washington, Burnham, Myerson, akLaff, Dieng, Myers

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mastery and stylistic breadth carry the night

No matter which gems brothers Peter and Will Anderson choose to explore from the very wide and deep jazz canon, the pair always delight with their technique, clever arrangements and swinging musicality.

Such was the case on Monday, February 11, when the 31-year-old identical twins performed in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s Artist Series in Port Charlotte FL. Paris-born guitarist Felix Lemerle, a Fullbright Scholar who has worked regularly with the Andersons for two years, completed the trio.

Will and Peter Anderson

Stylistically the music was all over the map, but the Andersons embraced it and transformed the varied selections into something all their own. We’re talking vintage New Orleans, Claude Debussy’s classical masterpiece “Clair de Lune,” some movie soundtrack gems, and something from the pen of hard-bop composer Horace Silver, as well as early Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.

Felix Lemerle
Peter Anderson (the elder brother, by one hour) played tenor and soprano saxophones, and clarinet. Will Anderson (the taller brother, by one inch) played alto sax, clarinet and flute. Lemerle soloed and played rhythm guitar as the situation demanded, also tapping his fret board to provide a drum-like rhythm on occasion.

The twins are Bethesda, MD natives who studied at Juilliard and are based in New York City. They shifted with ease between instruments, sometimes doubling on the melody or handing the melody off to each other in seamless fashion.

They also supported each other’s solos with a more rhythmic role. Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” which became Artie Shaw’s biggest hit, was a prime example. As Will dug into the familiar melody on clarinet, Peter used his tenor sax to drop in accent notes that kept time much like a drummer or bassist.

Their version of “Clair de Lune” was unusual. The combined sound they created on tenor sax and clarinet melded into something that at times seemed like it was coming from an accordion.

Other material presented in this program included “These are a Few of My Favorite Things,” “After You’ve Gone,” “Basin Street Blues,” a teasing arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue,” Horace Silver’s funky “The Preacher,” “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Mood Indigo,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Moon River,” “Darn That Dream” and a burning take on Ray Noble’s “Cherokee” before closing with Louis Armstrong’s “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” 

Will Anderson
This was the brothers’ second Port Charlotte visit. They first performed for CCJS four years ago. At that February 9, 2015 concert, they performed “Reed Reflections,” which a good friend, New York-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Kyle Athayde, wrote for them as a symphonic piece.

Peter Anderson
This night, they shared Athayde’s "Appalachian Mountain Song." Featuring the brothers on clarinets, the complex and vivid song’s textures and rhythms sounded like it was inspired by the Appalachian Round song form. It was composed for clarinets and a 31-piece string orchestra. Lamerle took on all of the string responsibilities with his artful guitar work.

The concert at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s William H. Wakeman III Theater drew a crowd of more than 300.
Will Anderson, Felix Lemerle, Peter Anderson

Friday, February 8, 2019

An afternoon of pleasant surprises

When clarinetist Bud Leeds pulls together a band for a concert, you can never be sure what you'll get, numbers-wise, but it is a guaranteed good time. Such was the case with his Friday, February 8 matinee concert for the South County Jazz Club in Venice FL.

The band this day included Bob MacInnis on cornet, clarinet and trombone, Bobby van Deusen on piano, Bob Leary on rhythm banjo and guitar, Don Mopsick on bass and Dick Maley on drums. Judy Alexander joined for several vocal numbers.

The big treat - unexpected by many in the crowd - was the guest appearances by Isaac Mingus. The 21-year-old jazz and classical bassist and cellist attends the University of Florida in Gainesville, and performs in the Charlotte and Venice Symphonies, as well as several area jazz bands, including the Pleiades Ensemble.
Mopsick, Mingus

Mingus and Mopsick were front and center for a dueling-basses take on Cole Porter's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To." This arrangement was drawn from bassist Paul Chambers' Bass on Top recording. 

Then Mingus and van Deusen collaborated on Italian Romantic composer Giovanni Bottesini's "Reverie in D minor for double bass and piano." It likely was the only classical piece that has been performed at a SCJC event since the club was founded in July 2010. Later in the concert. Mingus performed two jazz pieces on cello: Antonio Carlos Jobim's bossa nova "Wave" and the Great American Songbook classic "As Long as There's You." No matter the genre, he's a gifted player to keep an eye on.
Leeds, MacInnis

Other special moments:
  • Van Deusen's tour de force version of "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" Was a tip of the hat to composer Michel Legrand, who died in late January.
  • Leeds and MacInnis teamed up for a twin clarinets take on a "mothers" medley: "My Mother's Eyes" (first recorded by George Jessel in 1929) and Sidney Bechet's poignant "Si Tu Vois Ma Mere" (If You See my Mother).
    Van Deusen, Trumble
  • South County Jazz Club's artistic director (and founding president) Morrie Trumble played tenor saxophone with the band on "Back Home in Indiana." In past concerts, he has only been on stage to make announcements.
Other classic jazz material included "Wolverine Blues," "Royal Garden Blues," "Lady Be Good" and It's a Wonderful World."

The concert was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice.

Van Deusen, Trumble, Leary, Mopsick, Leeds, Maley, MacInnis