Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Exploring the creativity, passion and pain of two early jazz luminaries

Jo Morello's two-act play Lil & Louis offers its audience many insights into the star-crossed lives and music of trumpeter Louis Armstrong and his second wife, pianist and composer Lil Hardin Armstrong.
Marta McKinnon as Lil Hardin

Its central question - "If the world didn't have a Lil, would it have had a Louis?" - doesn't get a clear answer, but is something to ponder. The young Satchmo encountered Lil Harden after he moved to Chicago to join horn man Joe "King" Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. 

They soon shed their prior spouses and married. The classically trained and college-educated Lil played piano in some of the bands in which Louis worked, wrote songs for him, and for a time became his manager. And she eventually got him to break out of the bands of Oliver and Fletcher Henderson to carve his own path. In short, she convinced him he didn't need to play second fiddle - or, in this case, second cornet - to another bandleader. 

McKinnon, Kinsey
"Hot Miss Lil," as she was known at one point early in her career, may have been weaned on classical music but proclaimed, as artfully played by Marta McKinnon, "I was born to swing!"

This two-act play digs into the couple's creativity, passion and pain - as Louis embraces stardom. He loves Lil, the second of four wives, but also was an unrepentant womanizer. Michael Kinsey of Sarasota's Westcoast Black Theatre ensemble, revealed the many facets of Louis the man. He gets extra credit here - stepping into the role just five days before Lil & Louis opened on Tuesday, January 21.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Metz-Parrott-Sportiello dig into the jazz canon - and popular songbook

Eddie Metz Jr.
The International Trio swings with immense joy, humor, mega-talent and professionalism wherever they play. Any road weariness - or even jet-lag - is left behind once its members hit the stage.

That was clear on Sunday, January 19, when drummer Eddie Metz Jr., bassist and singer Nicki Parrott, and pianist Rossano Sportiello concluded their week-long Florida tour with a matinee concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Sarasota.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The International Trio’s return visit swings mightily

Drummer Eddie Metz Jr.’s trio with Italian pianist Rossano Sportiello and Australian bassist-singer Nicki Parrott sure knows how to swing its music. It did so on Monday, January 13 with creativity, poignancy, a bit of humor – and a program that honored the players’ great influencers.
Eddie Metz Jr.

This was the band’s fourth visit to the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert stage in nine seasons. It was clear from the first notes that their sound and simpatico have reached new heights – and the audience responded in kind. This is a band of equal partners. Their concert programming has evolved over the years to a point where they have combined their formidable musical talents in ways that appeal to their listeners.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Looking back at 2019

AllAboutJazz has published my annual comprehensive review of goings on in the jazz world in 2019, things great, things odd, things interesting - and sometimes tragic. 

International Jazz Day brought its biggest stage to Australia. An important but long-dormant jazz mecca was revived in a coast-to-coast move. ECM Records celebrated a golden year. The music and its makers figured prominently on the big screen. 

The National Endowment for the Arts welcomed four new NEA Jazz Masters. The jazz world said farewell to one other, who was among the many industry-associated musicians and figures who passed away during the year, some under tragic circumstances.

You can read it all here

Best wishes for the new year.