Saturday, March 31, 2012

The apple didn't fall far from the tree

Billy Marcus
Billy Marcus has been a fixture on the Florida jazz scene for more than 30 years. After an extensive club reign in Miami, where he was named the city's Best Musician by Miami/South Florida Magazine in 1982, he moved about three years ago to St. Petersburg, where his two sisters live. He's the son of the late Marie Marcus, a stride pianist who worked in New York, Miami and was a fixture on the Cape Cod music scene in Massachusetts for decades.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SCJC's Tuesday jam session settles in at Allegro Bistro

Just three weeks into its new home the South County Jazz Club's Tuesday night jam session feels fully entrenchedat Valenti's Allegro Bistro in Venice. The music remains strong and the dining options are wonderful, to say the least.
One of the treats when he stops by - which is most Tuesdays - is the opportunity to hear saxophonist Jim Wellen.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

At last - a real gig together

Dick Reynolds and Ira Sullivan
Multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan cut his jazz teeth on the vibrant jazz scene in Chicago in the 1950s. Pianist Dick Reynolds was house pianist at Mr. Kelly's in the Windy City for more than a decade. They crossed paths and became friends, but only sat in with one another one time - about 30 years ago during one of Sullivan's trips back to Chicago from Miami, where he has been based for more than 50 years.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CDs of Note - Short Takes [updated]

A look at new CDs from Lynne Arriale, Jeff Hamilton and Jonny King....

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jake Pinto in Sarasota

Jake Pinto does spring break a bit differently than most of his college peers. He headed home from New York University to Sarasota FL for a week mixing beach time and several music appearances. The pianist brought at least five of his frequent musical collaborators and other friends along for the ride.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Swinging with silk

Dave Pruyn brought his Jazz Legacy Big Band to Port Charlotte FL last night for a concert that revealed the all-around excellence of the unit. It's 16 fine ensemble players are also excellent soloists. The five-member saxophone section provided a silky smooth sound that enhanced the overall group sound immeasurably.
Trumpeter-vocalist Pruyn (who also plays drums) had a ringer aboard for the night. Old friend Mike Renzi, a longtime fixture on the New York jazz and popular music scene, was at the piano. Renzi now lives back in his native Rhode Island but tours regularly and spends several months each winter in Florida.

Newport Jazz Festival lineup is set

Founding producer George George Wein today announced the lineup for the Saturday and Sunday programs of the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival on August 4-5 at historic Fort Adams State Park. The Friday August 3 opening night program at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport Casino will be announced later..

Wein also announced that Natixis Global Asset Management, which sponsored the 2011 Newport Jazz Festival, will return as presenting sponsor for three additional years.

Veterans Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette, Bill Frisell and others share the billing with Miguel Zenón (pictured), Jason Moran, Ambrose Akinmusire, Darcy James Argue, Dafnis Prieto, John Hollenbeck and others. In addition, award-winning artists Dianne Reeves and the Tedeschi Trucks Band will be a major part of the festival, along with Maria Schneider, Kurt Elling and Joe Lovano.
Tickets go on sale on Thurday, March 15. The full day-by-day schedule will be posted at the festival website.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ron Drischel at the Venice Art Center

Saxophonist Ron Drischel, whose main axe is the tenor, has a brawny style and a robust tone that serve him well. He put them to good use Thursday, March 8 at the South County Jazz Club's concert at the Venice Art Center. He also knows how to rein them in on the occasional mellow ballad.

It was an afternoon for covering more than a dozen pages of the American Songbook and for digging into several jazz instrumental chestnuts. The latter category included Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder," Paul Desmond's "Take Five" and Earl Hagen's "Harlem Nocturne," which has become an R&B staple.

Drischel is known in southwest Florida as "Dual Sax Ron" because he likes to play tenor and alto simultaneously at times to thicken the harmonies in his solos or comping. He used that technique sparingly in this concert - as an introduction on "Blue Skies" and a brief interlude midway through "I'm a Fool to Want You." He doesn't belabor tunes, unlike some soloists who stretch them to the point of exhaustion. He enjoys brevity, sometimes opting for abrupt endings because he's ready to move to the next tune he wants to share.

The Cincinnati native had superb support for this concert: pianist Tommy Goodman, bassist Dominic Mancini and drummer Johnny Moore. The two-hour concert drew a crowd of more than 90 people.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Snook Haven's final jam session

Just wanted to share a photo from Tuesday night's South County Jazz Club jam session at Snook Haven, where there's been jazz every Tuesday night at the end of the dirt road for the past 18 months or so.

Beginning March 13, the jazz club's jams are moving about four miles west to Valenti's Allegro Bistro, 1740 E. Venice Ave. in Venice FL. An overwhelming majority of club members voted for the change. It may be a great step in the jams' evolution.

Still, as a Florida newcomer, I'll miss the "Old Florida" rustic charm of Snook Haven, mere steps from the scenic and wild Myakka River. I know of no other place offering jazz on a regular basis that has taxidermist-prepared critters (a bear, two skunks, a coyote) on or alongside the stage - and a skinned alligator on the ceiling.

Valenti's seems to have a bit more seating, which should be a great enhancement going forward. Snook Haven's jams were packed to the gills most Tuesday nights.

Pictured: drummer Dane Hassan, clarinetist Dr. Bob Felman, bassist Dominic Mancini, pianist Tommy Goodman and valve trombonist Jim Fitzpatrick.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

CDs of Note – Short Takes

I’m a big fan of jazz CDs that have the Hammond B3 at the heart of the action. The leader doesn’t have to be the organist for the recording to stand out. The sound enhances the music regardless. Here are a few gems.

Gary Smulyan,Smul’s Paradise (Capri)

Gary Smulyan’s brings his baritone sax to the world of the jazz organ combo here. In part, it is a tribute to late organist Don Patterson. It includes the Patterson compositions “Aries” and “Up in Betty’s Room,” as well as Smulyan’s “Blues for DP.” The band, with B3 player Mike LeDonne, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Kenny Washington, also tackles “Pistaccio," the Pee Wee Ellis tune that organist Rhoda Scott liked to play; George Coleman’s “Little Miss Half Steps” and Bobby Hebb’s 1960s pop hit “Sunny,” as well as two more Smulyan originals. Smulyan is best known for his extensive big band work. It is a treat to hear him in the organ combo context.

James Carter Organ Trio, At The Crossroads (EmArcy)

The gregarious saxophonist James Carter seems to get most earthy and exuberant with his organ trio, which he formed more than 10 years ago. The core band, with B3 player Gerard Gibbs and drummer Leonard King Jr., is augmented by guitar, vocals and/or horn section on five tracks. Among the many treats: the way Carter cuts loose on “My Whole Life Through,” which was written by veteran B3 player Sarah McLahler and guitarist Eddie Durham, as well as Julius Hemphill’s “The Hard Blues” and Big Maybelle’s “Ramblin’ Blues.”

Cinque, Catch A Corner (Alma)

This quintet, anchored by B3 player Joey DeFrancesco, includes drummer Steve Gadd and three fine Canadian players - bassist Peter Cardinali, pianist Robi Batos and saxophonist John Johnson. The band collaborated in writing six of the eight tracks, adding Cedar Walton’s classic “Bolivia” and Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” to close things out. It’s soulful and impressive. At varying points, it’s bluesy, gritty, warm, subtle and soulful. There’s a lot to love.

Brian Charette, Music for Organ Sextette (SteepleChase)

There’s a modernist/ classical music approach here, with Charette’s B3 holding its own amid a bright and ambitious horn section and added propulsion from drummer Jochen Rueckert. The horn choir is solid, with Jay Collins on flute, Mike DiRubbo on alto sax, Joel Frahm on tenor sax and John Ellis on bass clarinet. Charette’s writing is clever and whimsical. Dig, for example, “Fugue for Kathleen Anne/Ex-Girlfriend Variations” and “The Elvira Pacifier.” “Prayer for an Agnostic” ironically is one of the most soulful tracks. “Late Night TV” and “Tambourine” are the most robust.

Bob Sheppard, Close Your Eyes (BFM Jazz)

Keyboard players Alan Pasqua and John Beasley use the B3 to great effect on one track apiece on reed player Bob Sheppard’s latest project. Paasqua’s organ work helps set the agenda on the the title track opener, while Beasley cuts loose on Joe Henderson’s “Gazelle.” The CD is a terrific showcase for Sheppard’s instrumental versatility and solid sound. Other key players include trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, guitarist Larry Koonse and drummer Antonio Sanchez.