Monday, December 6, 2021

Acme Jazz Garage's special kind of musical romp

There is so much to admire at an Acme Jazz Garage concert. The Tampa-based band leaps with enthusiasm into a wide-ranging bag of influences to deliver music that is distinctly its own.

Matt Swenson, Philip Booth
The band's expanded sextet version performed Sunday, December 6 for the Tampa Jazz Club as part of the Hillsborough Community College Performing Arts Series at HCC's Mainstage Theatre in Ybor City. 

Bop, bossa nova, R&B, a bit of Cuban rumba, some soul jazz and a few jazz standards - filtered with Acme's high-energy jam-band enthusiasm - made for a powerful afternoon.

Acme Jazz Garage has been on the scene for 10 years. The personnel for this concert included bassist Philip Booth, guitarist Matt Swenson, pianist Jody Marsh (who succeeded founding keyboardist Bryan Lewis after the latter's move back to upstate New York this year), saxophonist Rick Runion and drummer Jean Bolduc. Percussionist-singer Marshall Gillon was a special guest. 

Rick Runion
Jean Bolduc
All of the players have worked with each other in various combinations and bands for many years. That familiarity enhances their group chemistry. 

The band is cohesive and their arrangements and soloing are adventurous, anchored with a solid jazz feeling. If you like Steely Dan, you'll like Acme Jazz Garage.

The band romped through several tracks from its new CD, Sharkskin (Solar Grooves), including the title tune featuring Swenson's distinctive guitar artistry, Bob Dylan's "Watching the River Flow," and Booth's exotic "Rumba Misterioso" and "Phil's Blues." 

Marshall Gillon
Gillon was a splendid addition to the band, with his tasty but not overpowering conga work and soulful vocals that were featured on the Dylan tune, Al Jarreau's 1983 hit "Mornin'," "Cherokee," Tom Jobim's bossa nova "Wave," the New Orleans classic "St. James Infirmary" and Jon Cleary's  "When You Get Back." Hearing "Cherokee" performed with its lyrics was a treat. Too often in jazz these days, we usually hear it as an instrumental burner.
Jody Marsh

The instrumental adventures included Horace Silver's soul-bop standard "The Jody Grind," (fittingly arranged by Jody Marsh), and on Booth's "Mr. G.P.," a tribute to Meters bassist George Porter Jr. from Acme Jazz Garage's eponymous debut in 2016.

Acme Jazz Garage
Bob Seymour and Mike Cornette
The concert included a tribute to broadcaster Mike Cornette, jazz director at WUSF for the past five years,
who retired after his final show on Friday, December 3. He was the public radio station's first jazz director back in the 1970s, and one of its principal All Night Jazz hosts for many years. 

Cornette and Bob Seymour, his immediate predecessor as WUSF jazz director, are both active in the Tampa Jazz Club. Seymour is its president.

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