Branford Marsalis at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg (review)

branford(This review was initially intended to run in print in Relix, but wound up going online in sister publication

“It’s not always easy attracting large audiences hungry for jazz of the undiluted, acoustic-based, hard-edged and tradition-rooted but forward-looking variety. Unlike others who remain true to that artistry-forward approach, saxophonist Branford Marsalis has a famous jazz-family name and well-earned critical kudos.

And he has accumulated several circles of fans via his stint on The Tonight Show, his Sting residency, a Grateful Dead sit-in released as part of a box set, and appearances in Spike Lee and Danny DeVito movies. Some have followed his career since the early ‘80s, when he played with brother Wynton’s quintet and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

So what should one expect from a Branford show?”

Read the rest here.


Jazz in NYC: Santi Debriano at Smalls, Jason Marsalis at the Jazz Standard

As mentioned in an earlier post, I had the chance to hear some world-class jazz during my trip to NYC in January. I always try to make the most of my too-rare visits there, so I made a point of hitting three top-rank shows.

I caught trumpeter/flugelhornist Tom Harrell‘s quintet at the Vanguard (I reviewed for Relix/, and groups led by bassist Santi Debriano at Smalls, and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis at the Jazz Standard. Meant to put together a few thoughts about the Smalls and Jazz Standard shows shows a while back, but …


NYC Jan 2018 Santi Debriano at Smalls

On Jan. 20 at Smalls in the West Village, still one of Manhattan’s most intimate and most affordable jazz venues, the Panamanian-born bassist led a group with two other journeyman jazzers — tenor saxophonist Craig Handy and pianist Bill O’Connell — and Living Colour’s Will Calhoun (playing a small Canopus drumset).

The quartet, for its first set that Saturday night, played mostly originals, starting with “Ripty Moon,” built on a bluesy bass groove; Debriano capped his solo with flamenco-style hard strums, flourishes atypical in jazz. “Natural Causes,” the title track from a recent Debriano album, began with unison and harmony bass/sax lines, opened up for a ballad section and featured a bass solo incorporating bowed figures.

“Lexi’s Song,” a medium-tempo piece penned by Handy, offered a pretty melody; Handy, for his solo, deployed a series of octave jumps, and Calhoun was featured on a trading-8s section. The group closed with an inspired, swinging take on the standard “My One and Only Love.”

With its members drawing from various shades of jazz, Latin music, and even rock (Calhoun), Debriano’s band is a highly interactive, creative unit. They make a great vehicle for the bassist’s compositions; he said he’s hoping to record with this quartet soon.

Side note: Santi Debriano probably doesn’t recall borrowing my bass for his performance, years ago, at the Child of the Sun Jazz Festival at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. My group played the now-defunct fest earlier in the day, and he decided he’d rather use my upright than the one that FSC had made available to him.


NYC Jan 2018 Jason Marsalis at Jazz Standard

Five days earlier, on a chilly night at the Jazz Standard on 27th Street, vibraphonist Jason Marsalis played a one-night stand with his 21st Century Trad Band in support of the recently released Melody Reimagined: book 1. (I reviewed the album, released on the New Orleans label Basin Street Records, for JazzTimes).

I’ve seen the youngest of the Marsalis jazz-playing siblings many times over the years, in New Orleans, New York, and Tampa. But he was always behind a drum kit, playing in a variety of settings, including piano trios variously led by his father, Ellis Marsalis and Marcus Roberts, the jazz-funk group John Ellis and Doublewide, and Los Hombres Calientes, his Latin jazz collaboration with percussionist Bill Summers and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield.

As a vibraphonist, Marsalis is assured, using his chops and a seemingly intuitive feel to carve out a voice on the instrument that seems distinct from his predecessors and influences.

Joined by bassist Will Goble and drummer David Potter — both heard on the new release — and pianist Stephen Gordon, Marsalis showcased a good sampling of the disc’s music, which is centered on the concept of creating new melodies over familiar chord changes.

NYC Jan 2018 jazz standard

The quartet opened with the disc’s first two three tracks:  “Ratio Man Strikes Again” (inspired by Coltrane’s “Traneing In”), begun with a tricky vibes line over stop-start rhythms; the stately “Off the Rails” (“You’ve Stepped Out of a Dream”) and “Just as Cool as the Other Side of the Pillow,” built on the “Willow Weep for Me” changes and endowed with a title borrowed from a catch phrase of late ESPN announcer Stuart Scott.

The retro-fired, graceful ballad “80” (“The Very Thought of You”) was originally written in honor of Ellis, who plays on the album, but took on greater meaning with the passing last July of Marsalis matriarch Dolores, as Jason explained.

The set, the first of two that night, also included the standard “You and the Night and the Music,” featuring some fruitful 4s-trading with Potter; a lush ballad, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”; and the classically influenced “Ballet Class,” from Marsalis’s 2013 album “In a World of Mallets.”

Looking forward to what compositions Marsalis devises for book 2, if/when he follows the first installment with a sequel.



Tampa Jazz Calendar: John Beasley’s MONK’estra at USF, St. Petersburg Jazz Festival, more.

john beasleyJohn Beasley‘s “MONK’estra, Vol. 1 (Mack Avenue),” a collection of brilliant large-ensemble arrangements of Monk tunes, landed on my list of 2016’s best Jazz albums (for JazzTimes and other polls and publications). And Beasley unleashed even more Monk music last year, with “MONK’estra, Vol. 2.” Both albums have landed much critical acclaim and jazz-radio airplay.

So it feels like a bit of a coup on the part of USF’s jazz studies program to get Beasley to Tampa to conduct the USF Jazz Ensemble (big band) on some of those arrangements. The show, part of the school’s Monday Night Series, and co-produced by the Tampa Jazz Club, is this Monday night at 7:30 at the USF Concert Hall, on campus at the school’s music complex. Click the link on the listing below for more info.

On the jazz calendar:

  • Friday, Feb. 23 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: B3 Fury with the Shawn Brown Quintet, with guitarist Nate Najar, saxophonist Jeremy Carter, and drummer Anthony Breach. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. SOLD OUT Link
  • Saturday, Feb. 24 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Helios Jazz Orchestra with (vocalists) Whitney James & Chuck Wansley. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Feb. 25 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Pianist) Gabriel Hernandez Trio, with bassist Mauricio Rodriguez and drummer Dimas Sanchez. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Monday, Feb. 26 — Monday Night Jazz: MONK’estra: Celebrating the Thelonious Monk Centennial, with pianist/composer/arranger John Beasley conducting the USF Jazz Ensemble. USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, March 1 — Bill Cunliffe (pianist) Trio with bassist Martin Wind and drummer  Tim Horner. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Friday, March 2 — Tony Bennett. Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Sunday, March 11 — Tampa Jazz Club: (Singer) Fred Johnson & (bassist) Michael Ross. HCC Ybor Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 pm. Link
  • Monday, March 26 — USF Monday Night Jazz: (Pianist) Steve Allee. USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, March 29 — Women’s History Celebration: (Saxophonist-singer) Valerie Gillespie with pianist Karen Benjey, bassist Jennifer Medina and drummer Meghan Lock. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Friday, March 30 — Bossa Nova All-Stars: (Guitarist) Nate Najar with vibraphonist Chuck Redd, saxophonist Harry Allen, and singer Maucha Adnet. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30. Link
  • Friday, April 6 — Sarah Vaughan Tribute: (Singer) Synia Carroll with pianist Billy Marcus, saxophonist Jeremy Carter, bassist Billy Pillucere, and drummer Steve Bucholtz. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Sunday, April 8 — Tampa Jazz Club: (Saxophonist) Harry Allen. HCC Ybor Mainstage Theatre, 3 pm. Link
  • Sunday, April 22 — Jazz Noir: Mood Music for Murder & Mystery, with pianist Stretch Bruyn, bassist Alejandro Arenas, drummer Mark Feinman, percussionist Ron Gregg, saxophonists Rodney Rojas and James Carter, trumpeter James Suggs, and guitarists Charlie Robinson and Mike Pezze. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 3 p.m. Link
  • Friday, May 4 — James & James: By Request, with singer Whitney James, trumpeter James Suggs, and La Lucha — pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas, and drummer Mark Feinman. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link

Note to readers: Thanks, and follow me!

Thanks to all who follow my blog, as well as to those who visit only occasionally.

Jazzlands is purely a labor of love, a way to kind of document my comings and goings in the music and jazz world, and to share my magazine work with a larger audience.

If you like what you read, please follow my blog, and I’d also invite you to follow me on Twitter at @pboothmusic.

You may know that in addition to writing about jazz and other music, I actively play with several bands around Florida, including: Acme Jazz Garage (also on Facebook; and @acmejazzgarage on Twitter ), Swan City Jazz Project (on Facebook), Trio Vibe, and Zensemble. I occasionally play with blues band the Juke Joint Kings, and the Blue Guava Orchestra (on Facebook), and once or twice a year I sub with the Tomkats Jazz Orchestra.

Also, I have a Facebook page offering info on my all of my various music-playing activities — Philip Booth Music.

So … stop by one of the above online locations if and when you can, and please follow me.

If you’re in Tampa on a Thursday or Friday night, you can catch me with Acme Jazz Garage at Timpano, 1610 W. Swann Ave. in Hyde Park Village. We start at 7 pm both nights (until 10 on Thursdays; until 11 on Fridays).

Lately, I’ve been doing more gigs with Swan City Jazz Project, with my Lakeland pals Jody Marsh (fellow LHS classmate) on piano, and Rick Runion on sax; sometimes we’re joined by a drummer to make it a quartet.

Ahead for Swan City:

I’d love to bring one of my bands to your festival, special event or nightclub. We’re actively looking for paying gigs. And I’m always looking for a way to a label home for my next CD project. The Acme Jazz Garage CD, released in 2016, was played on 35 or so radio stations across the country, and was reviewed in Relix and other national and local publications.

So if you have any ideas on gigs or on helping me fund a recording of original music, hit me up at jphilipboothAThotmailDOTcom

Meanwhile, back to your usual programming.


Jazz in NYC: Tom Harrell at the Village Vanguard (review)

While in NYC recently, I had the pleasure of checking out a few great jazz shows.

Glad I got the chance to hear the great trumpeter and flugelhorn player Tom Harrell‘s quintet at the Vanguard, bassist Santi Debriano‘s quartet at Smalls, and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis‘s group at the Jazz Standard (more about these later).

Harrell at the Vanguard

On Harrell, I wrote: “It was the most sonically stripped-down moment, and perhaps the most dramatic: About midway through his first set on a recent Thursday night at New York’s venerable Village Vanguard, three of Tom Harrell’s bandmates slipped off stage, leaving the veteran brass player and prolific composer alone except for bassist Ugonna Okegwo, who stood at the rear of the small stage.”

Read the rest of the review, for Relix/, here

Grammys to Jazz: No Prime Time for You!

Despite my best intentions, I tuned in tonight to the Grammys, the music industry’s annual orgy of self-love, er, popularity contest.

Jazz and blues artists and awards were all but banned from the broadcast portion of this year’s awards.

Unless it happened when I momentarily left the room, there were no on-air mentions of Grammys in those categories. And the only musicians onstage representing those genres were pianist and New Orleans native Jon Batiste (of “The Late Show”) and Austin guitar slinger Gary Clark Jr., who, accompanied by a drummer, joined forces for a quick salute to two recent fallen icons — Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.

So … let’s honor them here:

  • Best Improvised Jazz Solo: “Miles Beyond” — John McLaughlin, soloist
  • Best Jazz Vocal Album: “Dreams and Daggers” — Cécile McLorin Salvant
  • Best Jazz Instrumental Album: “Rebirth” — Billy Childs
  • Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: “Bringin’ It” — Christian McBride Big Band
  • Best Latin Jazz Album: “Jazz Tango” — Pablo Ziegler Trio
  • Best Instrumental Composition: “Three Revolutions” — Arturo O’Farrill, composer (Arturo O’Farrill and Chucho Valdés)
  • Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: “Prototype” — Jeff Lorber Fusion

And jazz people won in a couple other categories:

  • Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90” — Various Artists; Dae Bennett, producer
  • Best Surround Sound Album: “Early Americans” — Jane Bunnett                                   

Loved hearing Chris Stapleton and Emmylou Harris pay tribute to the late Tom Petty with an acoustic performance of his “Wildflowers.”

Glad, too, to see Grammys go to:

  • Best American Roots Song: “If We Were Vampires” — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
  • Best Americana Album: “The Nashville Sound” — Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
  • Best Contemporary Blues Album: “TajMo” — Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’

“Most of the (jazz and blues) awards were distributed during the Grammy Premiere Ceremony, which streamed live at, ” as Nate Chinen points out in his column for “One clear highlight of that ceremony was a performance by Jazzmeia Horn, who was in the running for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her self-assured debut, A Social Call.”

So, gee, thanks, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, for all but entirely squeezing jazz and blues musicians out of your broadcast, in favor of a variety of assorted musical nonsense. How’d ‘ya like U2’s lip-syncing?


In other news, Tampa’s own Chuck Owen, a pianist, composer, and longtime USF jazz prof, and his Jazz Surge received FOUR Grammy nominations for the band’s critically acclaimed “Whispers on the Wind” album: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Best Instrumental Composition (“Warped Cowboy”), Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella (“All Hat, No Saddle”) and Best Improvised Jazz Solo, for violinist Sara Caswell.

Unfortunately, Owen lost to (good) artists with higher profiles and much greater name recognition (remember that part about “popularity contest”?)

Still, how many artists — of any genre? — received 4 Grammy noms this year? Owen achieved quite a feat.


Tampa Jazz Calendar: Dave Stryker, Peter Bernstein, Diana Krall, more

Celebrated singer-pianist Diana Krall, who probably qualifies as a jazz superstar, makes her fourth appearance at Ruth Eckerd Hall with a Jan. 30 performance supporting her recent Turn Up the Quiet album. And, yeah, file premium-seat tickets under “crazy prices” ($175 & $138.75). On the other hand, nice to see a jazz musician get pop-star pay.

No definitive word on which musicians are joining Krall for the Clearwater date, but for a December show in Ottawa, she was joined by guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Robert Hurst, violinist Stuart Duncan, and drummer Karriem Riggins. Check out Peter Hum’s review.

And here’s a video of her appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in August.


Two superb, nationally known guitarists, Dave Stryker (pictured, above) and Peter Bernstein, are headed our way, too, for shows sponsored or co-sponsored by the Tampa Jazz Club. Stryker and Bernstein frequently play all the major NYC jazz clubs and big jazz festivals you can name.


  • Sunday, Jan. 28 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit/Tampa Jazz Club: Dave Stryker Quintet (w saxophonist Jack Wilkins, pianist Chris Rottmayer, bassist Charlie Silva, and drummer Walt Hubbard). HCC Ybor Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 pm. Link
  • Monday, Jan. 29 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit/Monday Night Jazz: Peter Bernstein, with the USF Faculty Jazz Ensemble (guitarist LaRue Nickelson, pianist/keyboardist Chris Rottmayer, bassist Mark Neuenschwander, and drummer Ric Craig)USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm. Link 
  • Tuesday, Jan. 30 — Diana Krall, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Wednesday, Feb. 14 — Whitney James‘ Jazz Valentine. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Wednesday, Feb. 21 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Tal Cohen (piano) Trio, with bassist Dion Kerr and drummer David Chiverton. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Feb. 22 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Saxophonist) Jeff Rupert Quintet with Veronica Swift (vocals), pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Ben Kramer, and drummer Marty Morell. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Friday, Feb. 23 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: B3 Fury with the Shawn Brown Quintet, with guitarist Nate Najar, saxophonist Jeremy Carter, and drummer Anthony Breach. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Saturday, Feb. 24 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Helios Jazz Orchestra with (vocalists) Whitney James & Chuck Wansley. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Feb. 25 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Pianist) Gabriel Hernandez Trio, with bassist Mauricio Rodriguez and drummer Dimas Sanchez. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Monday, Feb. 26 — Monday Night Jazz: (Pianist/keyboardist) John Beasley. USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Friday, March 2 — Tony Bennett. Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Sunday, March 11 — Tampa Jazz Club: (Singer) Fred Johnson & (bassist) Michael Ross. HCC Ybor Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 pm. Link
  • Monday, March 26 — USF Monday Night Jazz: (Pianist) Steve Allee. USF Concert Hall, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Sunday, April 8 — Tampa Jazz Club: (Saxophonist) Harry Allen. HCC Ybor Mainstage Theatre, 3 pm. Link