Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from Jazzlands

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and yours from May this season be filled with meaningful reflection, pleasant times with family and friends, and lots of great music.

THANK YOU for reading this blog. Comments always appreciated. And so are new readers.

I stay busy with my day job, as well as gigs with Acme Jazz Garage, Swan City Jazz Project, and other groups, and writing for several national publications, including JazzTimes, Jazziz, and Relix magazines.

I write in this space as time permits. In 2018, I also contributed to the Washington Post, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and SawPalm.

In the spirit of the season, here’s a holiday-ish tune, “Last Call,” from the debut CD by Acme Jazz Garage.

It’s a swinger, with a ’40s-set story about a couple taking a romantic walk across Manhattan on a snowy night during Christmas season; they pass through Times Square and stop at a jazz club, encountering some legendary musicians along the way.

For this track, our core group — pianist Bryan Lewis, guitarist Matt Swenson, me on upright bass, and former drummer Tim Diehl — was joined by singer Whitney James, trumpeter Ron Wilder, and vibraphonist Sam Koppelman. The tune’s chorus, with its tightly clustered vocal harmonies (all by Whitney), might remind some of Manhattan Transfer.

“Last Call” is the only vocal cut on our CD, which had a nice run in 2016. The CD was heard on more than 30 stations across the country, including Tampa’s WUSF, 89.7 FM and WMNF, 88.5 FM, staying on the Jazzweek radio-airplay chart for several months. It received good reviews from national and regional press, including Relix magazine, LA Jazz Scene, Tampa Bay Times, Creative Loafing  (Tampa), The Toledo Blade, Ken Franckling’s Jazz Notes, and Tie Your Shoes Reviews.

The CD is available for purchase via iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, and at our gigs.

Acme Jazz Garage has been together since 2011. If you find yourself in the Tampa Bay area on a Thursday or Friday night, please come hear us play at Timpano Chophouse in Hyde Park Village, Tampa, starting at 7. We mix jazz standards with blues, bossa novas, funky stuff, pop/rock instrumentals and originals.

We’ve recently returned to the Springs Theatre in Seminole Heights, where we recorded our debut CD, and have nearly completed work on four new tracks of original material. We hope to release something in 2019.

(BTW, Acme Jazz Garage is more than open to partnering with a label for our next release. If interested, contact me directly —

“Clapton biography portrays a restless rocker forever bolting his bands” — my review for the Washington Post

clapton book

My review of “Slowhand,” Philip Norman’s new bio of Eric Clapton, is published in today’s Washington Post. See the full review here.

” ‘Have I ever been satisfied? Definitely for one night, yeah,’ Eric Clapton told Rolling Stone last year. He referred fondly to a 1968 show in Philadelphia with Cream, his innovative and enormously successful band with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce. Nearly four decades later, the trio reunited for a four-night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall that sold out in less than an hour.

When it comes to musical genres, bandmates, relationships with women and even his place in the rock universe, Clapton has always been driven by an unquenchable thirst for genuine satisfaction, Philip Norman contends in “Slowhand.” It’s a comprehensive and often illuminating account of the life and career of a musician who has had an outsize influence on generations of guitarists.

Norman, a former journalist best known for his 2,000-plus pages of Beatles biographies, opens with a scene at a lunch spot near the English city of Leeds in December 1969. Surrounded by young female fans, George Harrison introduces his pal Clapton as “the world’s greatest white guitarist . . . Bert Weedon,” the author of a popular guitar tutorial. It’s a rare moment of comic relief in a 419-page tome that’s mostly as sober as its subject is not.”


25 OTHER Notable Jazz Discs of 2018

Given the profusion of top-shelf jazz recordings released throughout the year, my Top 10 list barely scratched the surface of the new and notable.

So here are 25 more of 2018’s best jazz releases, worthy of your time and attention.

Antonio Adolfo: Encontros — Orquestra Atlantica (AAM)

Ambrose AkinmusireOrigami Harvest (Blue Note)

Roni Ben-Hur & Harvie SIntrospection (Jazzheads)

Anat Cohen & Fred HerschLive in Healdsburg (Anzic)

Chick CoreaThe Musician (Concord)

Rob Dixon Trio featuring Charlie Hunter & Mike ClarkCoast to Crossroads (Rob Dixon)

Bill FrisellMusic IS (Okeh/Sony)

Aaron GoldbergAt the Edge of the World (Sunnyside)

Jimmy Haslip/Scott Kinsey/Gergo BorlaiArc Trio (Blue Canoe)

Carlos HenriquezDizzy Con Clave (RodBros)

Fred Hersch TrioLive in Europe (Palmetto Records)

Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda WilliamsVanished Gardens (Blue Note)

Medeski Martin & Wood with Alarm Will SoundOmnisphere (Indirecto)

Brad Mehldau TrioSeymour Reads the Constitution! (Nonesuch)

Hendrik Meurkens/Bill CunliffeCabin in the Sky (Height Advantage)

Francois Moutin & Kavita ShawInterplay (Dot Time)

Bill O’ConnellJazz Latin (Savant)

Houston Person & Ron CarterRemember Love (HighNote)

Charles Pillow Large EnsembleElectric Miles (MAMA)

Dan Pugachi NonetPlus One (Unit)

Cecile McLorin SalvantThe Window (Mack Avenue)

SFJAZZ CollectiveOriginal Compositions & the Music of Ornette Coleman, Stevie Wonder & Thelonious Monk (SFJAZZ)

John ScofieldCombo 66 (Verve)

Dr. Lonnie Smith, All in My Mind (Blue Note)Jim Snidero & Jeremy PeltJubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley (Savant)

Kamasi WashingtonHeaven and Earth (Young Turks)

Jazz in Nashville? Well, yes.

F1F658D0-9D60-4AE7-825E-524C2408CF24.JPG25EDBA6B-DAA6-4E6C-8D30-41C9816C60B4.JPGNashville, of course, is ground zero for country music — at least, for most of the country music that lands major radio airplay.

But Music City long has been home to lots of superb players who are also accomplished jazz cats. In recent years, that list has grown to include the likes of saxophonist Jeff Coffin, guitarist Larry Carlton, banjo man Bela Fleck, bassist and Belmont prof Roy Vogt, and friends and former Florida residents Jeff Berlin, the virtuoso bass guitarist, and Mike Pachelli (with whom I’ve played on several occasions over the years).

Rudy’s Jazz Room is the (relatively) new jazz spot in town, and I’m happy I got a chance to stop in on Monday night, for the weekly performance by Charles Treadway‘s organ trio, with Nashville guitar cat Pat Bergeson (Lyle Lovett, Suzy Bogguss, and the late Chet Atkins) and, on this gig, drummer Jordan Perlson.

The three, playing on a slightly elevated stage in front of a red curtain, turned in a set of jazz standards, blues, fusion, boogaloo, and old school R&B/funk that ranged from mellow to swinging to absolutely schmokin’.

Their repertoire, easy to love, included Duke Ellington’s “Reflections in D,” Benny Goodman’s “Don’t Be That Way,” Duke Pearson’s “Idle Moments” (popularized by Grant Green) and three written by and/or associated with noted B3 men — Dr. Lonnie Smith‘s “The Man From Toledo,” Bobby Pierce’s “To Newport With Love” and Jimmy McGriff’s “Healin’ Feeling.” Pretty sure I was hearing their creative take on the Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love” on the way out.

Rudy’s is a comfortable, beautifully appointed place, with cleverly named specialty drinks and good food — I had the gumbo. Photos, posters and other artwork related to jazz icons including Miles, Monk and Louis Armstrong adorn the walls. And ornate lantern-style lights hang from the bare, industrial-looking low ceilings.

I’ll be back one day, I hope.

Grammy jazz nominees: Wayne Shorter, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, more

Most of the Grammy noms are a bunch of meh, IMO. Guess I’m not the target audience.

Kudos to the jazz nominees.
The albums by Wayne Shorter, Redman/Miles/Colley/Blade, Eddie Daniels, and Eddie Daniels landed on the Top 10 list I submitted to JazzTimes mag and elsewhere.

At least two Florida connections:
Scotty Barnhart, director of Count Basie Orchestra (best large jazz ensemble album) is the longtime jazz trumpet prof at FSU. 
And celebrated pianist Brad Mehldau (best improvised jazz solo) is a Jacksonville native.
Best Improvised Jazz Solo:
“Some Of That Sunshine” — Regina Carter, soloist
“Don’t Fence Me In” — John Daversa, soloist
“We See” — Fred Hersch, soloists
“De-dah” — Brad Mehldau, soloist
“Cadenas” — Miguel Zenón, soloist

Best Jazz Vocal Album:
“My Mood Is You” — Freddy Cole
“The Questions” — Kurt Elling
“The Subject Tonight Is Love” — Kate McGarry With Keith Ganz & Gary Versace
“If You Really Want” — Raul Midón With The Metropole Orkest Conducted By Vince Mendoza
“The Window” — Cécile McLorin Salvant

Best Jazz Instrumental Album:
“Diamond Cut” — Tia Fuller
“Live In Europe” — Fred Hersch Trio
“Seymour Reads The Constitution!” — Brad Mehldau Trio
“Still Dreaming” — Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley & Brian Blade
“Emanon” — The Wayne Shorter Quartet

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album:
“All About That Basie” — The Count Basie Orchestra Directed By Scotty Barnhart
“American Dreamers: Voices Of Hope, Music Of Freedom” — John Daversa Big Band Featuring DACA Artists
“Presence” — Orrin Evans And The Captain Black Big Band
“All Can Work” — John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble
“Barefoot Dances And Other Visions” — Jim McNeely & The Frankfurt Radio Big Band

Best Latin Jazz Album:
“Heart Of Brazil”— Eddie Daniels
“Back To The Sunset”— Dafnis Prieto Big Band
“West Side Story Reimagined”— Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band
“Cinque”— Elio Villafranca
“Yo Soy La Tradición” — Miguel Zenón Featuring Spektral Quartet

And congrats to the writers nominated for their work on liner notes:

    James P. Leary, album notes writer (Various Artists)
    Richard Martin & Ted Olson, album notes writers (Charles A. Asbury)
    Ben Ratliff, album notes writer (Sonny Clark Trio)
    David Gilbert, album notes writer (Various Artists)
    Amanda Petrusich, album notes writer (Bob Dylan)
    David Evans, album notes writer (Various Artists)

Here’s the full list of Grammy nominees. 

The 61st Grammy Awards will be broadcast on Feb. 10.


Best Jazz Discs of 2018

My favorite jazz releases of 2018 (as submitted to JazzTimes mag and elsewhere), listed alphabetically:

Kenny Barron Quintet Concentric Circles (Blue Note)

Eddie Daniels Heart of Brazil: A Tribute to Egberto Gismonti (Resonance)


Larry Goldings/Peter Bernstein/Bill Stewart Toy Tunes (Pirouet)


Chris Lightcap Superette (Royal Potato Family)


Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas/Sound Prints Scandal (Greenleaf)


Nolatet No Revenge Necessary (Royal Potato Family)


Joshua Redman/Ron Miles/Scott Colley/Brian Blade Still Dreaming (Nonesuch)


Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band West Side Story Reimagined (Jazzheads)


Antonio Sanchez (featuring WDR Big Band) Channels of Energy (CamJazz)


Wayne Shorter Emanon (Blue Note)

Gasparilla Music Festival 2019: Gary Clark Jr., Infamous Stringdusters, Avett Brothers, Tribal Gold, the Pharcyde, Tank and the Bangas, more.

gasparilla 2019

Several impressive picks just announced for the eighth annual Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, including rising-star Austin blues man Gary Clark Jr., Americana exponents The Infamous Stringdusters and the Avett Brothers (love ’em but they seem to play our market every six months), country-rock act Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, New Orleans Suspects spinoff band Tribal Gold (the Suspects with Big Chief Juan Pardo & The Golden Comanches), the Pharcyde, and Tank and the Bangas.

Tampa’s long-running Grateful Dead tribute group Uncle John’s Band “will perform the Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks Vol. 1 live album, which was actually recorded at the since-demolished Curtis Hixon Hall way back in 1973,” Ray Roa writes in Creative Loafing/Tampa.

Also on the bill: Laurie Berkner, Jared & the Mill, Parrotfish, Sugar Rush, Mr. Tommy, and The Florida Gospel Music & Arts Fellowship Choir with Dr Kevin B. Parrott.

I’d love to see more jazz, blues, and jazz-funk artists — national and local — on the bill. Maybe those types of acts will be added later.

How about some of the following, all of whom know how to connect with younger audiences? Snarky Puppy, Vulfpeck, MMW, John Scofield, Terence Blanchard, Robert Glasper, Dirty Loops, Jacob Collier, Christian Scott, Marquis Hill, Kamasi Washington, Ambrose Akinmusire, Soulive, Dr. Lonnie Smith.

GMF takes place March 9-10 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa.