Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Looking ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview (updated)

Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through May. Keep in mind the reality of COVID-19 protocols, expect possible cancellations, and mask up to keep yourself and others safe.

March

  • Thursday, March 24 – Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge celebrate their new CD, Within Us, and the band's 25-year history. USF Concert Hall, Tampa. 7:30 p.m.

April

  • Tuesday, April 5 – Saxophonist Kenny G in concert. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota. 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 6 – The Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra performs the music of Thelonious Monk. Artis Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 10 –The Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto quintet featuring 16-year-old pianist Brandon Goldberg. Naples United Church of Christ, Naples. 5 p.m.
  • Diana Krall
    Monday, April 11 – Trombonist Herb Bruce's band
    Herbicide wraps up the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s 2021-22 concert series. Gulf Theater, Military History Museum, Punta Gorda. 7 p.m.
  • Monday, April 11 – Trumpeter James Suggs performs in the Jazz Club of Sarasota's Monday Night Jazz Cabaret series at the John C Court Cabaret at Florida Studio Theatre. Sarasota. 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, April 22 – The Aaron Diehl trio performs in the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center's Jazzy Nights series. Fort Myers. 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 23 – Singer-pianist Diana Krall in concert. Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota. 8 p.m.
  • Monday, April 25 – Guitarist LaRue Nicholson performs in the Jazz Club of Sarasota's Monday Night Jazz Cabaret series at the John C Court Cabaret at Florida Studio Theatre. Sarasota. 7:30 p.m.
  • Wycliffe Gordon
    Wednesday, April 27 – Alto saxophonist Dick Oatts is special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra. Artis Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, April 29 – Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon performs in the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center's Jazzy Nights series. Fort Myers. 7:30 p.m.

May

  • Monday, May 9 – Singer Chiara Izzi performs in the Jazz Club of Sarasota's Monday Night Jazz Cabaret series at the John C Court Cabaret at Florida Studio Theatre. Sarasota. 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 18 – Vibraphonist Warren Wolf is special guest with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra as the quintet concludes its 2021-22 season. Artis Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Monday, May 23 – The Tampa-based trio La Lucha performs in the Jazz Club of Sarasota's Monday Night Jazz Cabaret series at the John C Court Cabaret at Florida Studio Theatre. Sarasota. 7:30 p.m.

Several venues offer jazz steadily. They include The Grill at 1951 (formerly J.D.’s Bistro) in Port Charlotte; Amore, Cafe L'Europe and Goodfella’s Cafe in Sarasota; Scarpino's in Bradenton; The Roadhouse and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Fort Myers; and Slate’s in Cape Coral.

Jazz at Two Friday matinee concerts sponsored by the Jazz Club of Sarasota and Morrie Trumble's Jazz With Morrie series in Venice also keep things swinging for jazz lovers.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Sarasota Jazz Festival hits 40 - under the stars

It took an extra two years to get there, thanks to the pandemic. The Jazz Club of Sarasota's long-running jazz festival held its 40th evening concert series March 16-19 with a wide range of talent – and a new venue.

The bulk of the festival was moved from indoor venues in and near downtown Sarasota to Nathan Benderson Park, right next to the facility's world-class rowing facility – where collegiate sprint rowing teams sometimes could be seen slicing through the water in training sessions.

With a full moon in view as the evenings progressed, the 2022 festival carried a most-appropriate theme: “Swinging under the stars.” (Wednesday night's opener featuring Houston Person & Friends, and John Pizzarelli & Catherine Russell, was moved indoors to Riverview Performing Arts Center because of a rainy weather forecast).

Russell Malone
The scheduling gods enabled me to attend the final two evenings – and the music was splendid.

Friday night

Guitarist Russell Malone opened the Friday concert with the festival's house rhythm section, La Lucha. The Tampa-area trio – pianist John O'Leary III, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman – adapt themselves well to every musical situation. 

“I was here two years ago to play for you, but everything got canceled,” Malone told the crowd. After the COVID 19-related festival lull, he was happy to be back playing again.

Tierney Sutton
His thick chords dominated extended takes of jazz and Great American Songbook fare. His solo introduction and coda added intimate melodic beauty to Burt Bacharach and Hal David's “Alfie.” The festival's music co-director, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, joined the fun for Malone's final number, the Benny Goodman quartet staple “Avalon.”

Pianist Shelly Berg's trio with Arenas and Feinman joined Tierney Sutton for the Friday night finale. The Los Angeles-based singer's exquisite creativity was on full display as she tackled material from her Sting Variations project, including “Driven to Tears” and “Fragile.”

Then she dedicated her take on “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” to March 2020 – the month when the pandemic shut down the music industry – and pretty much everything else. Peplowski returned for Sutton's set closers: ethereal takes on a pair of Antonio Carlos Jobim compositions - “Retrato em Branco e Preto” (also known as Zingaro or Portrait in Black and White), and “Triste” (Wave).

Saturday night

La Lucha
La Lucha opened the festival finale. This adventurous unit puts its own stamp on a wide range of music, and does it well. Material from the band's 2020 Arbors Jazz debut, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, dominated the set.

Houston Person
Their groove and extended improvisations on the Tears for Fears title track, David Bowie's rock classic “Space Oddity” and Patrick Swayze's “She's Like the Wind” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack were downright gorgeous. 

Arenas, Peplowski
Peplowski joined them for Arenas' tune “Por La Tarde” and saxophonist Houston Person joined for the trio's tribute composition “Blues for Houston Person.”

Before they were done, Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and his band transformed the closing set into a joyous Latin jazz dance party. Shifting between his horns, vocals, piano and a bit of percussion, Sandoval brought heat, exotic rhythms, intensity and sheer joy to the stage.

Arturo Sandoval

Highlights included his takes on Cuban composer Moisés Simons' 1933 hit son-pregón “El Manisero” (The Peanut Vendor) and Clifford Brown's jazz chestnut “Joy Spring,” the latter with an added Latin flair. 

Arturo Sandoval, Mike Tucker

He also walked into the audience to share a gentle take on Charlie Chaplin's ballad “Smile.” The band closed things out with an original that was rooted in Cuban jazz but also had the propulsion and feel of Afro-pop, underscoring how close the world is when it comes to its music.

Shelly Berg
The Jazz Club of Sarasota gave its annual Satchmo Award to Shelly Berg, who this year became the festival's co-music director. He was honored for his lifetime contributions to jazz as a performer, arranger, educator, producer and broadcaster. 

He's been a passionate jazz educator since the late 1970s. In addition to leading the University of Miami's Frost School of Music for the past 15 years, Berg is music director of The Jazz Cruise. He's a past president of the defunct International Association of Jazz Education.

La Lucha

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Keeping alive that big-band swing and spirit

The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, led by trumpeter and singer David Pruyn, drew the Charlotte County Jazz Society's largest audience of the 2021-22 season for its hard-swinging concert on Monday, March 14. For the audience, and the players, it was a journey back in musical time to the big band era of the 1930s, '40s and early '50s. Back to when the big-band sound dominated America's popular music– and alto saxophonist Dorsey was known as “The Jukebox King.”

Eddie Metz Jr., Pruyn, Greg Diaz
Pruyn, who lives in nearby Nokomis, succeeded the late Bill Tole as leader of the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra in 2017. He pulled from the ranks of South and Central Florida's finest jazz musicians for this 16-piece band. His wife, singer Michele James-Pruyn, was the featured vocalist on six tunes.

Over two hours, they shared some 20 standards from Jimmy Dorsey big-band repertoire, and a few other gems in Pruyn's hip pocket. Opening with Jimmy Dorsey's theme song, “Contrasts,” they worked their way through hit after hit, including “Stealin' Apples,” “When You're Smiling” and “June Night.” The latter was the first of many features for reed player David MacKenzie, who put his fresh stamp on classic Jimmy Dorsey alto sax solos.