Monday, June 26, 2017

Gates and Morgan – two different takes on vocal jazz

Giacomo Gates
Hot House, New York City’s long-running monthly jazz guide, asked me to profile singer Giacomo Gates, as well as preview singer Melissa Morgan’s metro-area gigs for its July issue, which is now out.

It can be read online or downloaded - or picked up at the many metro NYC jazz venues. 

Gates and Morgan have their own jazz vocal niches because of their approach and specialties. 
Melissa Morgan

You can read here about Giacomo, a master of many trades.

Melissa’s spotlight is available here


Sunday, June 25, 2017

The jazz of summer

The concert season in southern Florida pretty much mirrors the months when the area has the most visitors and seasonal residents.... say October through late April or early May. While that makes great sense, some programmers are also taking note that a considerable number of Floridians don't go north for the summer, or for the full summer.

A fair number of restaurants still offer jazz entertainment for their patrons year-round and there are concert gigs if you look for them.

Here's one of the latest examples. The Venice Institute for Performing Arts is running a Local Spotlight Festival throughout June, July and August in the lobby of the Venice Performing Arts Center. It includes a Summer Jazz Series of once-a-month concerts featuring fine area musicians.
Dick Hamilton

The first such jazz event was a Thursday, June 22 concert by Dick Hamilton's quartet, which featured the leader on keyboard and trombone, guitarist Steve Martinucci, bassist John DeWitt and drummer Johnny Moore. All four musicians are based in Sarasota.

Their fare included a wide range of jazz staples and material from the Great American Songbook. 

Dick Hamilton & Steve Martinucci
The finest moments included Martinucci's feature on "Emily," which revealed his beautiful warm instrumental tone, and several tunes on which Hamilton shifted to trombone and went head-to-head with the guitarist in trading melodic ideas. They included Harold Arlen's "A Sleepin' Bee," "Here's That Rainy Day" performed with a bossa-nova feel, and "You Stepped Out of a Dream."

The Venice-based South County Jazz Club now holds several of its major concerts at VPAC (three are scheduled in the 2017-2018 season) and helped the Institute with the programming for this new summer series. The remaining concerts feature drummer-singer Patricia Dean's trio (with bassist Don Mopsick and guitarist Dave Trefethen) on Thursday, July 20, and vibraphonist Dave Morgan's trio on Thursday, August 10.
Johnny Moore, John DeWitt, Dick Hamilton, Steve Martinucci

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The music community helps its own


When a musician gets in a life-altering jam, the music community tends to respond in a very big way.

One of the latest instances involves West Coast bass player Marc van Wageningen. He and drummer David Garibaldi were injured severely on January 12 when struck by an Amtrak train while were walking to a Tower of Power performance at Yoshi’s in Oakland CA.

Marc VW, a 30-year fixture on the Bay Area’s jazz, funk and Latin music scene, has been subbing in the funk band since 2002. He was the most seriously injured of the pair. He underwent surgery to remove his spleen and repair broken bones and facial fractures. Like many musicians, he had no health insurance.

Multi-instrumentalist and music producer Peter Michael Escovedo organized a benefit concert to help van Wageningen and Garibaldi. He also set up a session the next day to record a studio album to benefit the bassist, called Raise the Marc. The many participating Bay Area musicians included saxophonists Dave Koz and Marc Russo, percussionists John Santos, Jesus Diaz, Pete Escovedo and his daughter Sheila E., guitarist Ray Obiedo and pianist Peter Horvath.


The CD will be released July 14 on the producer's Peter Michael imprint. It’s now available as a digital download here. One track, "Oakland in Da House," was included from an earlier Sheila E. album, captures her band onstage at Yoshi's. It is the only song on Raise the Marc on which Marc VW plays. All proceeds from the CD and digital download sales will benefit Marc and his family, who have been facing substantial medical expenses.

Van Wageningen and Garibaldi were hit by a train near Jack London Square about 20 minutes before the band’s scheduled show at Yoshi’s. Police said four people tried to cross the tracks — while the warning guard arms were still down — after a freight train slowly chugged by. They didn’t see an Amtrak train traveling from the opposite direction on another track. Garibaldi and Van Wageningen were not able to jump out of the way.

In addition to January benefit concert to help both musicians, a Go Fund Me initiative has raised more than $55,000. A second GoFund Me effort has raised an additional $81,000 to date toward van Wageningen’s considerable expenses. 

Dig in and help if you can.

Monday, June 5, 2017

CDs of Note – Short Takes


Taking a look at new CDs by Antonio Adolfo, Mike Longo, Yoko Miwa, Norbert Stachel, and John Stein and Dave Zinno.…

Here’s a fascinating tip-of-the-hat to jazz composer Wayne Shorter by pianist and arranger Antonio Adolfo. He re-arranged eight classic Shorter tunes in ways that give each of them Brazilian rhythmic cushions. The material includes “Deluge,” “Footprints,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Prince of Darkness,” “Black Nile,” “Speak No Evil,” “ESP” and “Ana Maria.” 

Adolfo at various points uses the baião, guarânia and samba rhythms to great effect. The exotic results are quite beautiful, such as the octet’s guarânia treatment of “Footprints,” which features Ze Renato on wordless vocals, and the horn section’s major feature on “Speak No Evil.” Marcelo Martins’ tenor and soprano sax, and flute work is marvelous throughout. Adolfo closes the project with “Afrosamba,” a propulsive original that combines samba and the afoxé musical genre to celebrate Shorter’s influences on his own work.

Mike Longo Trio, OnlyTime Will Tell (Consolidate Artists Productions)
Pianist Mike Longo spent 26 years as Dizzy Gillespie’s pianist and musical director. This fine recording is Longo’s 26th CD as a leader since forging his own musical path as a composer and player in the early 1990s. In addition to performing several originals, Longo, bassist Paul West and drummer Lewis Nash put their own updates to classic jazz material and one unexpected popular standard: a samba version of “Tomorrow,” the hit song from the musical “Annie.” Favorites: their romp through Oscar Pettiford’s “Bohemia After Dark” and Longo’s poignant and beautifully evocative title track.

Yoko Miwa Trio, Pathways (Ocean Blue Tear Music)
Japanese-born pianist Yoko Miwa won a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in 1997, intending to stay just one year. Twenty years later, she’s still in Boston – where she has developed into an integral force on the area’s thriving jazz scene with her fine, straight-ahead playing and creative spirit. Pathways is Miwa’s first CD in about five years. It stacks up as one of the finest releases to cross my desk so far in 2017. 

She’s teamed with her longstanding trio mates, bassist Will Slater and drummer Scott Goulding, who is her husband. Brad Barrett has since taken over the bass role, and plays here on the final track, her exploration of the Lennon-McCartney ballad “Dear Prudence.” Every track here is a gem. The band’s 11-minute exploration of Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” is the most stunning. Other favorites include two originals, the McCoy Tyner-ish “Lickety Split” and the dreamier “Lantern Light,” and a romp through Marc Johnson’s “Log O’Rhythm.” Check this one out.

Norbert Stachel, Shades of the Bay (Cheeseburger)
Saxophonist Norbert Stachel is a talented instrumentalist who has been working for decades as a sideman and section player for many big-name jazz, pop, rock and soul groups. On this project, we get to hear many of his facets as a writer and a player. While a dozen other players are featured on various tracks, Stachel is all over the place thanks to multi-tracking. On some tunes, he’s a virtual reed chorus all by himself. 

Here’s one example: “Step On It,” layers Stachel’s playing on soprano and baritone saxes, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet and shaker. Others include tenor and bass saxophones, tambourine, keyboards, African shells, and bass. The gems here include “Crawdaddy Dance,” the funky “Last Minute Blues,” and “For Tito,” which he wrote to honor Tito Puente, one of many bandleaders he worked with over the years. His sidemen here include Karl Perazzo on congas, Ray Obiedo on guitar and Dave Mathews on piano and organ. Stachel sticks to flute alone for his wistful “Goodbye Elgin Park.

John Stein and Dave Zinno, Wood and Strings (Whaling City Sound)
The fine art of musical conversation, rooted in timeless jazz standards that become a shared vocabulary, is at the heart of this fine new CD from two New England jazz stalwarts. Guitarist John Stein and bassist Dave Zinno showcase their talents as improvisers who respond deeply and inventively to each other’s ideas. They allow those ideas to linger and sink in, not talking over each other. In addition to four originals from Stein and one from Zinno, they explore the nuances of nine jazz standards. Favorites: Stein’s sprightly “Switch-a-roo,” Zinno’s “Song for Now,” Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius De Moraes’ pensive “Modinha,” as well as  Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen’s timeless “But Beautiful.” But in these hands, everything here is a gem to be savored.