Friday, May 27, 2022

Swinging jazz, no holds barred

The Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto quartet's weekly gig at the Barrel Room in downtown Fort Myers FL always has a surprise or two, and the Thursday, May 26 edition was no exception.

Jim White
Drummer Jim White, a close friend and occasional band-mate of trumpeter Miller's since 1987 when they were freshmen at the University of North Texas (then known as North Texas State), was a special guest, joining bassist Don Mopsick in the piano-less rhythm section.

White, Mopsick, Del Gatto, Miller
White is a powerful, hard-swinging drummer whose creativity and inventiveness was on display all night long. The one-time road warrior also worked in Nashville for many years before moving to the Rockies. For the past 17 years, he has been on the jazz faculty at the University of Northern Colorado.

Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino, a frequent guest who spends half the year living (and golfing) in Southwest Florida, joined midway through the first set. He and Miller are high-note masters who kept pushing each other higher and higher at every opportunity.

Don Mopsick

This was a night of jazz and Great American Songbook standards that gave each band member plenty of solo space to put their own stamps on the material. They also treated the crowd to a first-set mainstay for this band: a Jazz at the Philharmonic-style ballad medley, in which each horn player is featured on one segment. 

Terumasa Hino
Hino played "Body and Soul," then 30-year "NBC Saturday Night Live Band" alumnus Del Gatto dug into "Old Folks" and Miller wrapped up the medley with the Rosemary Clooney 1954 pop hit "Hey There." The song came from that year's Broadway musical The Pajama Game, where it was first sung by star John Raitt (blues singer Bonnie Raitt's father).

The evening also featured compositions in which their writers put a new melody over the chord changes of another tune. They included Ben Webster's "Did You Call Her Today?" - based on Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone," Thelonious Monk's "Bright Mississippi" - based on "Sweet Georgia Brown" and Tadd Dameron's "On a Misty Night" - based on "September in the Rain." If Dragnet's Sgt. Joe Friday had been a jazz fan, he might have said: "Just the contrafacts, Ma'am."

Gerald Augustin
White made the most of his solo space on Red Garland's "Blues By Five," which closed the first set, and "Topsy Part 2." The Count Basie orchestra first recorded the Eddie Durham-Edgar Battle tune "Topsy" in 1938. Cozy Cole had a huge hit 20 years later with his explosive drum feature on "Topsy Part 2," the "B" side of his version.

The second set brought two more personnel additions: tenor saxophone modernist Gerald Augustin, who is a Barrel Room regular, and guitarist Noah Charles. Charles, from Naples, is a University of Central Florida jazz studies major who on Sunday won a $2,500 award at the Central Florida Jazz Society's annual scholarship competition. He was featured on the ballad "All The Things You Are" and the night's closer, the band's take on Sonny Rollins' "Sonnymoon for Two."

Del Gatto, Hino, White, Miller, Mopsick
Del Gatto, Charles, White, Miller, Mopsick

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Casting her musical net far and wide

Singer Halie Loren covered the jazz and popular music waterfront - on the waterfront - in a Sunday, May 15, matinee concert at Selby Gardens' Historic Spanish Pojnt campus in Osprey FL. 

Halie Loren

She took the afternoon in some surprising directions, putting all sorts of music in a jazz context, delivered with a clear voice and deep understanding of the lyrics. She has always looked beyond the stylistic boundaries of jazz and standards for interesting material, and found ways to put her own stamp on it.

There were some jazz and Tin Pan Alley classics. There was a sprinkling of Latin and Brazilian tunes, and three originals. There were five tunes from the likes of Leonard Cohen, Bobbie Gentry, Etta James, Carole King, Bob Marley. A dozen of these gems were drawn from Loren's eight recordings since 2008.

The Sitka, Alaska native, now living in Oregon, was backed by a very fine Florida trio featuring pianist Zach Bartholomew from Miami, bassist Brandon Robertson from the Fort Myers area and drummer Rick Costa from nearby Venice.

Bartholomew, Robertson
The music included Nina Simone's classic "Feeling Good," the French standard "C'est Si Bon" and a samba version of the standard "L-O-V-E," first recorded by Nat King Cole. Then came King's "I Feel the Earth Move," Loren's own "A Woman's Way," the Doris Day hit "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps," and a version of Marley's "Waiting in Vain" that opened as a gentle ballad and built up a bit of steam.

Standard fare on the afternoon's musical menu included "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?," "Blue Skies," "and Fly Me to the Moon." The Brazilian and Latin features included Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Waters of March" (Aguas de Marco) and the 1950s bolero-mambo "Sway" (Quien Sera).

The band locked in with Loren all afternoon, especially on her version of Etta James' classic blues "I'd Rather Go Blind."

She opened the second set with an a-capella take on "High Heel Blues" by Patti Cathcart of the jazz-tinged duo Tuck and Patti, before delivering a bouncy original, "Yellow Bird."

Rick Costa
 The King and Marley tunes were just the start of her exploration of gems rarely heard in a jazz context. They included Gentry's Southern gothic hit "Ode to Billie Joe" and Cohen's delightful "Dance Me to the End of Love." Robertson's bass work was exquisite, particularly as he backed Loren on the Gentry tune.

Those Latin, samba and bossa nova rhythms, finishing with the afternoon closer, "Sway," were a perfect fit on this sultry, waterside afternoon.

The concert concluded the 2021-22 season for the venue's Music in the Garden series, held on the shores of Little Sarasota Bay.

Robertson, Bartholomew, Costa, Loren

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Rooted in tradition, with personal, modern twists

Hammond B-3 player Tony Monaco's music is rooted in a mighty tradition, but isn't stuck there. He can take the B-3 to church, and even into pioneer Jimmy Smith's "chicken shack sound" when he wants, but he is also stretching his sound into something fresh and tasty. Credit that to his own modern twists - with a healthy dose of musical emotion on the side.

Tony Monaco
That was the case on Friday, May 13, as Monaco opened a two-night Florida mini-tour at the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center in Sarasota. On this night, he was joined by guitarist LaRue Nicholson and drummer Rick Costa.

None had played together before this concert, a fact that underscored the magic of jazz. There was a freshness of ideas fired back and forth, turning the evening into the true essence of jazz - a swinging musical conversation among the players, which then touches the listeners.

LaRue Nicholson

All night long, Monaco's facial expressions revealed how deep he was into the music he and his band mates were making. That visual treat added to the moment. He often had a look of surprise on his 62-year-old face during or at the end of a solo line, as if to say "Did I do that?"

Rick Costa
The band's two 45-minute sets at Fogartyville mixed jazz and popular standards, Monaco originals, tributes from the B-3 archives, and some trips to musical church. A third of them included his vocals, including the Nat King Cole ballad "L-O-V-E" and the sprightly Italian language hit "Quando, Quando, Quando."

The trio was locked in from start to finish, with Monaco giving Costa and Nicholson plenty of space to add to the creative conversation.

His fine originals included a Smith tribute titled "I'll Remember Jimmy," "Called Love" and the funky "Indonesian Nights," which was a showcase for Nicholson's guitar mastery. In addition to the Smith homage, Monaco played a Jack McDuff-style blues in the key of G. Later, he saluted a fellow Columbus, Ohio B-3 native with an exploration of Don Patterson's "Goin' to Meeting."

They also also honored the the rich B-3 and jazz guitar combination with a fine reprise of Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery on Wes's "OGD" (Road Song) from Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes (Verve, 1969). 

Monaco took the audience to church with a bit of "Amazing Grace" before the break, and a with an extended exploration of Oscar Peterson's jazz standard "Hymn to Freedom" at night's end.

The latter was a welcome musical balm for the audience amid all that's going on in the world today.

Tony Monaco, LaRue Nicholson, Rick Costa

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

More on music from Quincy Davis

The May issue of Hot House includes my profile of drummer Quincy Davis, who performs with his quintet May 20-21 at Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village (see p. 17).

As sometimes happens with extended interviews, this one produced far more material than the magazine's wordage limit could accommodate. 

So here are two additional topics of interest from Davis, who, in addition to his performing career, is on the University of North Texas jazz studies faculty.

I asked Quincy about the positives and negatives of the pandemic on him musically. In other words, how did he make the most of a bad situation?

Similar to a lot of people, it allowed me to breathe and relax. At first you're panicked, then you say, 'OK, this is a chance to reassess and reset,” he said. “I started to write more. Because I had no gigs, it made less motivating to practice.

I also picked up my social media game. I came up with an idea to be on there if I can do something educational that can help people. I came up with this series 'Drummer to Drummer.' I interviewed 50 different drummers. One a week. That kept me pretty busy.” (He also started a YouTube channel called “Jazz Drummer Q-Tip of the Week” that features his educational drum-set lessons.)

It was an opportunity to upgrade (software, cameras, lighting, video editing skills) and learn new things. I am grateful for that time, but it is nice to be back in a normal groove.”

What is the key to surviving and succeeding in today's jazz marketplace?

As great as my peers are, playing with this person or that person and traveling, I can't think of any of my peers who do not teach. It has become kind of the norm. A lot of the people we go to see at the clubs are also teaching at an institution either as an adjunct or full time.

More and more of my peers are really seeking full-time positions because of the benefits, not having to worry about where their next paychecks will come from, having some stability. The future jazz musician, to stay viable, will be a performer who educates and an educator who performs -- like me. They go hand in hand.”

Monday, May 2, 2022

Looking ahead: Southwest Florida jazz preview

Chiara Izzi
Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through early June. 

Keep in mind the reality of COVID-19 protocols, expect possible cancellations, and mask up to keep yourself and others safe.

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.
  • Friday, May 13 – Tony Monaco's Hammond B-3 Organ Trio, with guitarist LaRue Nicholson and drummer Rick Costa, performs at Fogartyville. Sarasota. 8 p.m.
  • La Lucha
    Sunday, May 15 – Singer Halie Loren performs at Selby Gardens' Historic Spanish Point campus as part of its garden music series. Osprey. 1 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 18 – Vibraphonist Warren Wolf is special guest with the 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.
    Diego Figueiredo

June

  • Thursday, June 2 – Guitarist Diego Figueiredo performs at Fogartyville. Sarasota. 8 p.m.
Several venues offer jazz steadily. They include The Grill at 1951 (formerly J.D.’s Bistro) in Port Charlotte; Amore and Cafe L'Europe 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 South County Jazz With Morrie series in Venice also keep things swinging for jazz lovers.