Sunday, December 15, 2019

Looking Ahead: Southwest Florida Jazz Preview

Here is a rundown of noteworthy jazz events, principally in the Sarasota to Naples territory, from now through February, as the 2019-20 concert season continues….


  • Wednesday, December 18 – Guitarist Peter Bernstein guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2019-2020 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.

Nicki Parrott

  • Sunday, January 12 – Violinist Cynthia Sayer’s Hot Jazz Quartet, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 2 p.m.
  • Monday, January 13 – Drummer Eddie Metz Jr., bassist-singer Nicki Parrott and pianist Rossano Sportiello (the International Trio) perform in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series. William H. Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 15 – Saxophonist Jerry Weldon guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2019-2020 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
    Kenny Washington
  • Friday, January 17– Singer Kenny Washington is featured with the Dan Miller-Lew Del Gatto Quintet performs in the Jazzy Nights concert series. Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Fort Myers. 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 18 – Saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ quartet. Central Park Performing Arts Center, Largo, 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 19 – Drummer Eddie Metz Jr., bassist-singer Nicki Parrott and pianist Rosanno Sportiello. A Jazz With Morrie co-production. Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 30 – Pianist Dick Hyman, reed player Ken Peplowski and singer Clairdee perform Hyman’s movie music. Venice Performing Arts Center. 7 p.m.


  • Sunday, February 9 – Singer Veronica Swift and the Jeff Rupert quartet. A Jazz With Morrie co-production. Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota, 2.p.m.
  • Monday, February 10 – Pianist Roy Gerson’s Swingtet performs in the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s concert series. William H. Wakeman III Theater, Cultural Center of Charlotte County. Port Charlotte. 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, February 12 – Stefon Harris guests with the Naples Philharmonic Jazz Orchestra in the sextet’s 2019-2020 concert series. Artis-Naples’ Daniels Pavilion, Naples. 6 and 8:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 22 – The 15th annual edition of the Punta Gorda Wine & Jazz Festival. This year’s smooth-jazz lineup at this Chamber of Commerce-run event features guitarist Matt Marshak, and saxophonists Eric Darius and Mindi Abair. Laishley Park. 1 p.m. on.
  • Saturday, February 22 – Singer Alexis Cole in concert. Firehouse Cultural Center, Ruskin. 7:30 p.m.
    Diego Figueiredo
  • Sunday, February 23 – Brazilian guitarist Diego Figueiredo. A Jazz With Morrie co-production.  Glenridge Performing Arts Center, Sarasota. 2 p.m.
  • Tuesday, February 25 through Saturday, February 29: Singer Carmen Bradford and singer-trumpeter Byron Stripling join the Naples Philharmonic Pops in a Tribute to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Hayes Hall, Artis-Naples.

Several local venues offer jazz steadily. They include J.D.’s Bistro in Port Charlotte, The Blue Turtle in Punta Gorda, Amore, the Art Ovation Hotel and the Burns Court Bistro in Sarasota, the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin, The Roadhouse, Society and The Barrel Room at Twisted Vine Bistro in Fort Myers, and Slate’s in Cape Coral. A variety of matinee concerts sponsored all season by the Jazz Club of Sarasota and Morrie Trumble Productions also keep things swinging for jazz lovers.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

A bassist who gets style points

John Lamb has duende. Lots of it.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the Spanish word "duende" as meaning someone or something having the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm.

The late writer George Frazier, who penned jazz essays for Esquire and several Boston newspapers, used it when describing people whose presence made them irresistibly attractive. “So difficult to define, but it is there it is unmistakable, inspiring our awe, quickening our memory,” Frazier wrote.
John Lamb

Now, about St. Petersburg-based Lamb. He’s a magnetic presence on every stage because of his brawny musical style – and his singular way of interacting with his band mates.

When another player is taking a solo, Lamb turns his supporting role into a musical conversation. He leans in close to that musician, using facial expressions, body English and his responding notes to create a call-and-response moment. It underscores the sounds of the moment, and works like a musical magnet for the audience.

Lamb says he started out in the back line of the band, adding his bass notes, keeping the beat. But his approach evolved.
Nate Najar, John Lamb

“Over the years, I found out that nothing happens without the audience. Nothing happens without two or more people interacting,” he told me. “It’s not about me. It’s about all of us. Whatever level we reach depends on all of us.”

Vero Beach native Lamb, who turned 86 on November 29, worked with pianist Red Garland early in his career. He led his own group in Philadelphia in the 1950s. He was Duke Ellington’s bassist from 1964-67 and also was with the Ellington band for occasional gigs from time to time after that. He’s listed as playing on 17 recordings with Duke.

One classic YouTube video from 1966 shows Ellington, Lamb and drummer Sam Woodyard performing for artist Joan Miró at the Fondation Maeght’s sculpture garden in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in the South of France. It happened the morning after Ellington’s band played at the jazz festival in nearby Juan-le-Pins.
The video features the trio performing an E-minor blues. Ellington later named the evolving piece "The Shepherd (Who Watches Over The Night Flock)" in honor of John Garcia Gensel, a Lutheran clergyman who ministered to New York City’s jazz community.

Right after his Ellington years, Lamb moved to St. Petersburg, where he taught music in the Pinellas County School System and at St. Petersburg College. In 2013, he received the Jazz Club of Sarasota’s Satchmo Award for  service to jazz.

Lamb says the most-enduring lesson he absorbed from his Ellington years was about attitude. “I learned that if he didn’t feel too good about things for some reason, just look the other way and smile.” 

In other words: make the best of your situation and do your best. Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The big-band legacy is alive and well in hands like these

Saxophonist Craig Christman brought his Stardust Memories Big Band to Port Charlotte on Monday, December 9, for a concert that scored well on every measuring chart. His mission with this five-year-old band from Collier County is to keep alive the legacy of America's classic large bands. 
Craig Christman

Performing for the Charlotte County Jazz Society, he did so in clever ways that also honored some of the second-generation outfits that emerged from the Swing Era's heyday. As a result. the CCJS audience was transported to big-band heaven for a few hours.

In this two-set, 23-song performance, the 18-piece Stardust Memories band performed  vintage material from the likes of Benny Goodman, Harry James, Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw , as well as some Duke Ellington and Count Basie material. There was also a dollop of Stan Kenton, Quincy Jones and Doc Severinsen's NBC Tonight Show Band. The band also played two Buddy Rich band charts of classic material (Duke Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone" and Cole Porter's "Love For Sale"). 
Walt Andrus

Nelson Riddle's arrangements also figured prominently as singer Walt Andrus performed seven Frank Sinatra classic hits. Andrus, who moved to Southwest Florida several years ago, was a member of The Pied Pipers vocal group before trombonist Buddy Morrow hired him to sing with the Morrow-led Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Andrus worked with the orchestra for 15 years starting in 1988. He is blessed with an uncanny mid-career Sinatra sound when Ol' Blue Eyes was at his prime.

The high-octane Christman band roared through Glenn Miller's "In The Mood," "A String of Pearls," "Amercan Patrol" and "Sing, Sing, Sing," as well as a Miller arrangement of W.C. Handy's St. Louis Blues." The delicacy of Stan Kenton's arrangement of "Here's That Rainy Day" showcased the band's subtler side.

Christman shifted to piccolo for his solos on Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova," more familiar to many as the movie theme from Austin Powers. John Keevil added a fine piano solo here. 

Tom Weaver, Paul Gavin, Terry Myers
The band closed the first set with "Sing, Sing, Sing," the highlight of Goodman's renowned 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. Drummer Paul Gavin, who was swinging hard all night, was up to the challenge on this Gene Krupa hallmark. It opened the second set with another burner, "Theme from Police Squad!," the short-lived TV show that inspired The Naked Gun movies.

Terry Myers
Andrus reprised "Night and Day," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Pennies From Heaven," (which Sinatra recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra), "The Song Is You," "That's Life," "My Way" (another Keevil highlight) and the night's encore, "New York. New York."

Christman turned in the evening's most poignant moment with his solos on a Dave Wolpe arrangement of the Johnny Mandel-Johnny Mercer classic ballad "Emily." He said it is a favorite tune - because it is his daughter's name.

There was another Tommy Dorsey Band connection at work. Saxophonist Terry Myers, a regular performer at CCJS concerts through the years. is the current leader of that band. He was in the spotlight on several fine solos.

An audience estimated at more than 330 turned out for the CCJS concert at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's William H. Wakeman III Theater.
The Starlight Memories Big Band

Friday, December 6, 2019

Bud Leeds' musical friends come from all over

Clarinetist Bud Leeds pulled together a fine quintet for his Friday, December 6 concert in Venice  FL, blending varied geographic roots and a bit of holiday humor.

Jonathan Russell
Violinist Jonathan Russell flew in from his native New York City. Leeds, until recently splitting the year between Vermont and Venice, is now living in Vermont year-round but also flew back expressly for this show. Drummer Tom Jestadt is a snowbird who splits his year between Toronto and Southwest Florida. Pianist Keith Carman does the same north-south shuffle between Michigan and Bradenton. The only native Floridian on the bandstand for this matinee concert was bassist John Lamb, who was born in Vero Beach but has called St. Petersburg home for many years.
Lamb, Russell, Leeds

Russell, now 24, has been capturing attention for his jazz violin mastery since age 9. He was a marvel again on this whirlwind visit.

The band gelled beautifully. 

Highlights included:
  • Russell and Leeds' masterful melodic doubling  on violin and clarinet on the 1918 Original Dixieland Jass Band's "Fidgety Feet," and George and Ira Gershwin's "S'Wonderful." 
  • Russell's afternoon features included an exotic twist to the Great American Songbook classic "Autumn Leaves" that set the melody to a sultry samba beat. It was different, well done, and drew a standing ovation from many of the 150 or so jazz fans in the room.
  • Jestadt was featured with Russell on "Caravan," which became a drums-dominant excursion. As they traded solos back and forth, it became a clinic in musical dynamics. 
  • Lamb and Russell's simpatico on Duke Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone."
    Keith Carman

Other material included "Wolverine Blues," Body and Soul," "Memories of You," and British clarinetist Aker Bilk's mega-hit "Stranger on the Shore." 

Leeds' holiday humor came when he introduced one song as being inspired by the Nativity's visiting Magi. The tune? "I Found a New Baby." After that one, he and the band offered a bit of "We Three Kings" before shifting into "The Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me." 

Carman's wife, Nancy, joined the band early in the second set for two tasty Christmas tunes. It was an unexpected holiday treat.

The concert at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice was part of producer Morrie Trumble's Jazz With Morrie series.
Carman, Jestadt, Lamb, Russell, Leeds

Thursday, December 5, 2019

My take on the best jazz recordings of 2019

‘Tis the season for the outpouring of Top 10 lists, and their many variations, for jazz, world events, etc. The jazz lists tend to have a lot of variation depending on each reviewer's personal tastes, as well as what he or she listened to during the year.* Bottom line, all are extremely subjective.

These choices below (aside from top 10 new songs of the year) were submitted to the Jazz Times, Jazz Journalists’ Association and NPR Music 2019 compilations (The latter is the 14th annual Francis Davis-produced poll previously published by The Village Voice and The Davis poll is the largest, most-trusted year-end survey of its kind.
As I begin preparing my review of significant events and trends in jazz in 2019 for All About Jazz, I thought I'd share my "best of 2019" lists. *Always keep in mind the above caveats.

The 10 best new jazz releases of 2019

1.       Tierney Sutton Band, ScreenPlay (BFM)
2.       Something Blue, Maximum Enjoyment (Posi-Tone)
3.       Tom Harrell, Infinity (HighNote)
4.       Charlie Dennard, Deep Blue (Deneaux)
5.       Akiko Tsuroga, Jeff Hamilton and Graham Dechter, Equal Time (Capri)
6.       Lisa Hilton, Oasis (Ruby Slippers)
7.       Brandon Goldberg, Let’s Play! (independent)
8.       Dave Zinno Unisphere, Stories Told (Whaling City Sound)
9.       Five Play, Live From the Firehouse Stage (5Play)
10.    James Suggs, You’re Gonna Hear From Me (Arbors)

2019’s best vocal recordings:
1.     Tierney Sutton Band, ScreenPlay (BFM) 
2.     Laurie Antonioli, The Constant Passage of Time (Origin) 
3.     Nancy Kelly, Remembering Mark Murphy (SubCat)
4.     Nora York with Jamie Lawrence, Swoon (Good Mood) 
5.     Polly Gibbons, All I Can Do (Resonance)

The best historical/reissues of 2019 (includes any recordings made over 10 years ago, whether newly released or reissued):
1.     Cannonball Adderley, Swingin’ in Seattle, Live at the Penthouse 1966-67 (Reel to Real)
2.     Michel Petrucciani Trio, One Night in Karlsruhe (SWR Jazzhaus)
3.     Betty Carter, The Music Never Stops (Blue Engine)
4.     John Coltrane, Blue World (Impulse!)
5.     Miles Davis, The Complete Birth of the Cool (Blue Note/Ume)

2019’s top debut recording: 
   - Brandon Goldberg, Let’s Play! (independent)

2019’s best Latin/Brazilian jazz recordings: 
1.     Señor Groove, Little Havana (Zoho)
2.  Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, On Firm Ground/Tierra Firme (Linus) 
3.     Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet, The Rhythm of Invention (Patois)
4.     David Sanchez, Carib (Ropeadope/Malaza)
5.     Antonio Adolfo, Samba Jazz Alley (AAM), Steve Khan Patchwork (Tone Center)

The 10 best new compositions from CDs released in 2019, listed alphabetically:
   - Dave Bass, “Agenbite of Inwit” from No Boundaries (Whaling City Sound) 
   - Polly Gibbons and James Pearson, “If You Had the Chance” from All I Can Do (Resonance) 
   - Miho Hazama, “Somnambulent” from Dancer in Nowhere (Sunnyside) 
   - Clifford Lamb, “Blues & Hues” from Blues & Hues (Weberworks) 
   - Bevan Manson, Cecily Gardner and Tierney Sutton, “Caramel” from Bevan Manson, The Jazz Cave (Meistero)
   -  Bennett Paster, “Belgrade Booty Call” from Indivisible (self-produced) 
   - Michael Thomas, “Without Doubt” from Terraza Big Band, One Day Wonder (Outside In) 
   - Akiko Tsuruga, “Osaka Samba” from Akiko, Hamilton and Dechter, Equal Time (Capri) 
   - Mike Tucker, “Requiem” from Dave Zinno Unisphere, Stories Told (Whaling City Sound) 
   - Noriko Ueda, “Uneven Pieces” from Five Play, Live From the Firehouse Stage (5Play)