Tuesday, July 27, 2021

1960s anger and disillusionment fuel hope

Singer Synia Carroll celebrated the life and music of the late, great Nina Simone on Monday, July 26 in Sarasota FL with a concert fueled by the High Priestess of Soul’s blend of anger, disillusionment and passion – and Carroll’s optimism for a better day.

Synia Carroll
The Nina on my Mind … and I’m Feelin’ Good! show at Florida Studio Theatre’s cozy Court Cabaret in downtown Sarasota teamed Carroll with five of the region’s ace jazz musicians: trumpeter James Suggs, pianist John O’Leary, bassist Brandon Robertson, percussionist Patrick Hernly and drummer/musical director Paul Gavin. They also backed her at St. Petersburg’s Palladium Theater three nights earlier.

Carroll & Co. dug deep into the Simone repertoire for the full house crowd in attendance. As Simone’s artful and activist legacies inspired and required, the night’s music ranged from angry and passionate to teasing and joyful. The lyrics, coupled with Carroll’s powerful delivery and stories, underscored that the pain and frustration of the civil rights movement that Nina Simone sang about in the 1960s remain today.

James Suggs, Synia Carroll

The material included “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free,” “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl,” “Be My Husband,” “I Loves You, Porgy” from “Porgy and Bess” (with a sublime piano solo from O’Leary), and a thundering take on “Sinner Man.”

The first set concluded with “Why? (The King of Love is Dead),” which Simone’s bass player, Gene Taylor, wrote right after he heard about the death of Martin Luther King Jr. It wound down with Carroll rhetorically asking “Why does it have relevance in 2021, when it was written 50 years ago?” as the band backed her with a few bars from “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Paul Gavin

Synia Carroll

The second set opened with Gavin’s solo take on drummer Art Blakey’s “Freedom Rider” and the band’s exhilarating cover of a Carroll concert staple, Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.” These complementary choices set the tone for the remainder of this Simone-powered evening. 

“Hush a Bye” and “Brown Baby” set up the frustration-inspired Simone classic “Mississippi Goddam,” and “Four Women,” which Simone wrote about different African-American stereotypes. The night concluded with the optimism-prevails lyrics of “I’m Feelin’ Good."

“Even in the face of reality, this evening is about hope,” Carroll said. “Hope is my music. Learn from the past, acknowledge what needs to be done to make things better, and get to work. Hope is why I’m here tonight. We can all make a difference."

O'Leary, Robertson, Carroll, Hernly, Suggs, Gavin

Monday, July 26, 2021

2021b - Jazz musicians felled by coronavirus -- Chapter 5 (updated 9-10-21)

Here is part five of our chronological listing of jazz-related COVID-19 deaths from the novel coronavirus, updated as we receive them. This segment begins with deaths in July 2021. Chapter 4 lists deaths in the first half of the year.  Parts one, two and three contain 2020's 63 known losses.Our profound sympathies to their families, friends and fans as we remember their musical legacies.
  • South African singer-songwriter Steve Kekana died July 1 in a Johannesburg hospital. He was 62. After losing his eyesight at age 5, Kekana developed his love for singing while attending a school for the blind. He recorded more than 40 albums in Mbaqanga, jazz and R&B styles between 1977 and 2018.
  • Indonesian jazz guitarist and educator Beben Jazz died July 5 in Bekasi, West Java. He was 54. Beben Supendi Mulyana, aka Beben Jazz, also sang and played trumpet. He was a founder of Jakarta’s Kemayoran Jazz Community.
  • Singer and songwriter Tsepo Tshola died July 15 at a hospital in Teyateyaneng in his native Lesotho, a mountain kingdom that is surrounded by South Africa. He was 67. Also known as the “Village Pope,” Tshola came to prominence with the jazz group Sankomota, which he co-founded and co-led with the late Frank Leepa in the late 1970s. He launched his solo career in 2002. He performed for more than 40 years, primarily in Lesotho, South Africa and Europe.
  • South African pianist and educator Andre Petersen died July 22 age 43. He was the only African musician out of 68 pianists to compete in 2011's Concours de Piano-Jazz Martial Solal Competition in Paris. Johannesburg-based Petersen’s international recording and performance credits include working with Stefon Harris, Reggie Washington, Dave Liebman, Marcus Strickland, the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra and Norwegian avant-garde band Soyr. 
  • Paris-born guitarist, singer and producer Jacob Desvarieux died July 30 in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadaloupe. He was 66. Desvarieux co-founded the  zouk band Kassav’, which played a mix of jazz, Caribbean folk, rumba, soukous, discos and funk that was popular in the 1980s in the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. The band performed at several international jazz festivals.
  • Washington DC-based drummer and bandleader Howard “KingFish” Franklin Jr., died August 18. He was 51. The hard-swinging drummer was given the nickname “KingFish” by his late mentor, Calvin Jones. Singer-pianist Shirley Horn’s drummer, Steve Williams, called him “Fishstix.” Over the years, he worked with a wide variety of jazz greats. 
  • Multi-instrumentalist Isaac Mkukupa, considered to be the father of jazz in Malawi, died August 22 in Nottingham, England. He was 78. He moved from Africa to the UK in 2009. In a career stretching back to at least the early 1970s, Mkukupa played bass, guitar, trombone and trumpet. 
  • Nashville session drummer and educator Kenny Malone died August 26 at age 83. While best known for his extensive work with top country and folk artists since the 1970s, Malone’s work brought him into every acoustic genre. He recorded with Ray Charles and Bela Fleck, among others. He was an instructor at the Nashville Jazz Workshop. During his 14 years in the US Navy, he played in the Navy Band in Washington DC and headed the percussion department at the School of Music for the Navy, Army and Marines. 
  • Cuban pianist, composer, singer and bandleader Adalberto Álvarez died August 31 at age 72 at the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine in Havana. Nicknamed “El Caballero del Son,” Álvarez was one of the most important figures in Cuban music in recent decades. He led the “Son 14” orchestra for five years before founding “Adalberto Álvarez y su son,” a group with which he made his mark on Cuban and Latin music, in 1984 He recorded about 20 albums. 
  • Sousaphonist Bennie Pete, leader and founding member of the Hot 8 Brass Band, died September 6 in New Orleans. He was 42. 
  • Cuban singer Ela Calvo died September 7 at age 89. She was known as “The Lady of the Cuban song.” She was a star of Havana’s Tropicana cabaret, where she shared the stage with Luis Carbonell, Elena Burke and the Los Meme Quartet. Her career, which began in the late 1950s, included work on radio, television and nightclubs. She recorded with Andrés Echevarría’s jazz orchestra.
Here are links to the chronology: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

A sad milestone....

Today brought news of at least the 100th jazz-related death from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. 

Singer and songwriter Tsepo Tshola died today (July 15) at a hospital in Teyateyaneng in his native Lesotho, a mountain kingdom that is surrounded by South Africa. He was 67. He performed for more than 40 years, primarily in Lesotho, South Africa and Europe. 

 I have a few more details in Chapter 4 of my COVID log.  

Tshola's was the 100th such death that I have been able  to document. I fear there may have been more, because not all obits or death notices list a cause.

Here are links to the chronology: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.

Friday, July 9, 2021

The thirst for live jazz performances is back

Thursday night, July 8, saw another full house at The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in downtown Fort Myers for the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Quartet. It was the band's fifth week back at the rathskeller-style room after a 15-month lull because of the pandemic.

Lew Del Gatto, Tony Vigilante

The band is top-notch, featuring trumpeter Miller, tenor saxophonist Del Gatto, bassist Brandon Robertson and drummer Tony Vigilante. On this night, they had one guest musician sit in for most of the evening: Terumasa Hino

Dan Miller

The trumpeter, who lives part of the year in southwest Florida, brings his own brand of musical personality and high-octane musicality to the stage. It is always good to hear him, though these opportunities soon will pause. Hino returns to Japan at the end of the month for club and concert tours. He won't be back in Florida until sometime in December.

Brandon Robertson
Terumasa Hino
He really gets into the music, even when not soloing. When the band performed "Green Dolphin Street," shifting at times into a rhumba, he was swaying and dancing in place to the Cuban dance beat. At one point in the second set, he left the stage, borrowed my empty wine glass, and used it as a mute, giving his solo a dark, rich tone.

This band at this venue never disappoints. The musical chemistry is solid, and there is always something unexpected.

Kudos to venue owners Steve and Denise Hollister for helping keep live jazz and blues performances thriving in the City of Palms.

Terumasa Hino with the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto quartet