Thursday, November 5, 2020

Live jazz in times of uncertainty

Wednesday, November 4, brought the first live jazz concert that I’ve been able to hear in person in nearly eight months. The last was in early March.

This road trip was to Artis Naples, where the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra resumed its concert series last month – with careful attention to pandemic protocols.

Dan Miller
Rather than perform to two packed shows in the more intimate, 275-seat Daniels Pavilion, Artis Naples moved the performances next door to the 1,600-seat Hayes Hall. Temperatures were checked at the entrance, masks were required for the audience, staff and musicians, and the roughly 200 people who turned out were given seats far apart from each other. It felt a bit odd yet comforting, at the same time.

The resident sextet’s concerts usually feature a special guest soloist. West Coast singer Kenny Washington was due to make his third appearance in the series, which is now in its 11th season. But the audience found out at the start of last night’s show that he was not there.

Lew Del Gatto
The show went on with NPJO  veterans Lew Del Gatto on tenor sax, Dan Miller on trumpet, Glenn Basham on violin and harmonica, Jerry Stawski on piano, Kevin Mauldin on bass, and Mike Harvey on drums. With one day’s notice that Washington wouldn’t make it this year, the band put together a fine program featuring interesting arrangements and superb playing on some of the players’ favorite tunes.

Glenn Basham
Gems included Ben Webster’s “Did You Call Her Today?,” an extended blues exploration of Monk’s “Straight No Chaser,”  and a Jazz at the Philharmonic-style ballad medley in which four of the players were featured as it coursed between tunes. Del Gatto opened with “Body and Soul,” Mauldin’s arco bass mastery provided a beautiful contrast on “My Funny Valentine,” Basham was featured on chromatic harmonica on “Autumn in New York,” and trumpeter Miller brought it all home with “These Foolish Things.”

Dan Miller
Stawski’s spotlight feature came when the trio dug into Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Red  Blouse,” a lesser-known bossa nova (samba) from his 1967 album Wave. The sextet closed out the evening with a rollicking take on “Caravan” that spotlighted Harvey’s drumming.

For various reasons, perhaps including hesitance to travel during the COVID-19 situation, has impacted the sextet’s 2020-21 series. The first three scheduled special guests cancelled. Artistic director Del Gatto has been able to replace one of them. But we'll see what happens as the season progresses.

Trumpeter Randy Sandke, who relocated a couple of years ago from New York City to nearby Venice, will be the sextet’s special guest on December 16.

“Hopefully the rest of our guests will show up,” Del Gatto told me today, “but who knows?”

Stawski, Mauldin, Del Gatto, Harvey, Miller, Basham

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