Tampa Jazz Notes 1.29.09: SPC Jazz Festival, Kenny Drew Jr. at the Palladium

The St. Petersburg College Jazz Festival kicks off tonight with a performance by the Helios Jazz Orchestra, resident jazz ensemble at SPC, joined by Brooklyn-based saxophonist Sue Terry (below).


The festival continues Friday with an evening of Latin and Brazilian jazz, featuring Manigua, led by Cuban-born classically trained guitarist Alfredo Rivero, based in Tampa; and O Som Do Jazz, a St. Petersburg-based group specializing in bossa nova and samba jazz.

Saturday, the fest concludes with a concert by Terry, joined by a front-rank Florida rhythm section:  Pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Tracy Alexander.

Manson, director of the Helios Jazz Orchestra and co-leader, with Rio-born singer Andrea Moraes Manson (David’s wife) of O Som do Jazz, says he hopes to see the fest turn into an annual event.

I asked Manson how and why the fest, this year underwritten by the Silverberg Foundation, came together.

“The music department where I teach is undergoing a transformation from a sleepy ‘classical’ orientation to a more dynamic and diverse music program,” he wrote.

“We just got approval for an A.S. degree in music production that we call MIRA — Music Industry/Recording Arts,” he wrote. “We have two Pro Tools systems and a new faculty member, Mark Matthews, who has 25 years of studio experience in L.A. I see a possible symbiotic relationship and want the jazz studies area to grow along with the new MIRA program.

“The proceeds from the festival concerts will provide scholarships for students taking jazz courses. In these tough times, our students really need help financially. I also see the ongoing festival as a way to feature the many great local musicians living in the Tampa Bay area in a significant artistic experience. I am elated every time I step in front of the Helios Jazz Orchestra. The musical knowledge and ability flowing from that group is amazing.”

And what kind of audience is Manson reaching out to?

“Unlike with my EMIT series (adventurous and experimental music), I want this festival to appeal to a broader audience base,” he wrote. “This year, we have big band music from the Helios Jazz Orchestra, Latin jazz from Manigua and O Som Do Jazz and straight-ahead and post-bop music from the “Sweet” Sue Terry Quartet.

“Next year’s festival will probably be quite different in programming, but I still want hungry jazz fans in the Tampa Bay area to feel that the SPC Jazz Festival is about real jazz and that it has integrity. From the telephone calls that we have been receiving for the event, the audience seems very diverse – ranging from young people in their 20’s to folks in their 70’s and 80’s.”

SPC Jazz Festival concerts will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the SPC Music Center, 6605 Fifth Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. Admission is $10 (per concert) at the door.  For more information, call (717) 341-4301 or email mansond@spcollege.edu


Chappy’s Louisiana Kitchen in St. Petersburg plays host to the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association’s  jazz jam, the first Monday of every month.

The next jam session is Monday, Feb. 2, from 8 to 10 p.m. Musicians and vocalists are regularly turning out to participate in the session at the restaurant, located at 247 Central Avenue.


Kenny Drew, Jr., the world-class jazz pianist based in St. Petersburg, brings his trio to the Palladium Theatre’s Side Door Jazz series Thursday, Feb. 5 from 7:30 to 10 p.m. For this performance, sponsored by the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association, he’ll be joined by Richard Drexler, on bass, and drummer John Jenkins.

Admission is $20; or $15 for members of the Palladium, area jazz clubs, seniors, or students with ID.  The Palladium is at 253 Fifth Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. For tickets, call the box office at (727) 822-3590 or visit the venue’s web site.

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