Friday, September 2, 2022

A Misty Night

 Musician friends, family and friends, and students from near and far packed The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in downtown Fort Myers on Thursday night, September 1, for a jazz night unlike any other the venue has seen.

Del Gatto, Vigilante, Dowling, Robertson
They were all there, standing room only through the first set, to celebrate the musical legacy of trumpeter and educator Dan Miller, who died unexpectedly on August 19 at age 53.

The Barrel Room has been the Thursday night home for the past six and one-half years of the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto quartet, that also included bassist Brandon Robertson and drummer Tony Vigilante. The venue's Thursday night jazz will carry on, led by Robertson.

Bill Dowling

David Miller
On this night, longtime friend Bill Dowling was on trumpet. The quartet brought up a succession of guest musicians, beginning with Dan's younger brother, David Miller, on trombone.

Del Gatto, who'd worked frequently with Dan for 15 years, said the tribute would feature tunes that his dear friend loved to play. And so it did, with spirited and poignant versions of Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone," Thelonious Monk's "Bright Mississippi," "Green Dolphin Street," "Perdido," Miles Davis' "Blues By Five" (the band's traditional first-set closer), Tadd Dameron's "On a Misty Night," the Gershwin Brothers' burner "Soon" and Eddie Durham's Basie band staple "Topsy.”

Tony Vigilante

Two ballads were requested by or dedicated to Dan's longtime sweetheart, Judi Woods: "These Foolish Things Remind Me of You" and later, "Tenderly." Both were beautiful features for Dowling's trumpet artistry.

Herb Bruce, Gerald Augustin
The musicians sitting in at various points included drummer Paul Gavin, tenor saxophonist Gerald Augustin, trombonist Herb Bruce, bassist Kevin Mauldin (a band mate of Dan and Lew's in the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra sextet), and drummer John Gonzalez, who is one of Robertson's students in the Gulf Coast University jazz studies program.

Robertson noted at one point that while he graduated from Florida State University with a master's degree in music, "Dan gave me a doctorate in life."

Tenors anyone?
Kevin Mauldin
Judi Woods announced that this informal tribute was just a warmup for a bigger celebration that will be held in a larger venue when details and logistics can be worked out. 

She is setting up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called the Dan Miller Jazz Master Memorial Scholarship Fund to carry on Dan's legacy of paying it forward. It will be used to provide funds for instruments, jazz camp tuition, lessons and perhaps scholarships for young jazz students who need financial help.

Del Gatto told the crowd that the tip jar that evening wouldn't go to the musicians, but would be set aside for the fund. By night's end, the large glass bowl was nearly full.

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