It was a little disconcerting, in a good way: The high-caliber jazz on display Thursday night at the Ybor Jazz Festival made listeners — well, at least this one — feel as if the Mainstage Theatre at the HCC Performing Arts Building had suddenly been relocated to a New York jazz club. That doesn’t happen nearly often enough around here.
(Photos below are by Alex Spassoff)
For their first of two sets, saxophonists Jeremy Powell (left) and Austin Vickrey (right), presenting a tribute to Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, largely drew from the hard bop music heard on “Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago,” with Coltrane, originally released in 1959; five years later, it was released as “Cannonball and Coltrane.”
Powell, lean and angular on tenor , and the brighter toned Vickrey, on alto, variously played unison and harmony heads on tunes from the above mentioned album: “Limehouse Blues,” with a trading-fours section, Adderley’s “Wabash,” Coltrane’s “Grand Central” and a pair of ballads — “Stars Fell on Alabama,” a showcase for Vickrey, and “You’re a Weaver of Dreams,” a feature for Powell.
The set also included Coltrane’s uptempo “Moment’s Notice,” the sole tune NOT from that album, and closed with his bluesy, echoing “The Sleeper,” injected with colorful dissonance and invigorating syncopation courtesy of guitarist LaRue Nickelson, abetted by bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Ian Goodman; all are on the jazz faculty at the University of South Florida.
Throughout, Powell and Vickrey effectively unfurled the types of extended sheets of sound associated with Coltrane and Adderley (coincidentally, a Tampa native). The three greatly benefited from pairing with a rhythm section so effective at interacting with each other and with the soloists; they delivered a steady supply of rhythmic volleys, leveraged tension-and-release strategies, and demonstrated an understanding of quiet-to-noisy dynamics.
(Disclaimer, if I need one: Maybe I’m biased, as I’ve had the occasion to play on multiple occasions with two of the band’s musicians, and at least once with another of the players, and I’ve always viewed Mark as one of our area’s true jazz bass heroes)
The third annual Ybor Jazz Fest continues for three more nights: The Helios Jazz Orchestra with singers Denise Moore, Bryan Hughes, and Andrea Manson headline on Friday evening, following a set by pianist-singer Lisa Casalino; Latin jazz favorites Guisando Caliente hold forth Saturday night; and Sunday afternoon brings Jazztek, followed by Rayzilla’s Dreamboats (also featuring Powell). For details, click here.
While some high-end jazz talents choose to make their homes in the Tampa Bay area, others leave. Powell’s brother, Jonathan Powell, a trumpeter, is making inroads on the New York scene, as are several others who once played Tampa stages. BK Jackson lately has held down the saxophone spot in Prince‘s band. Obviously, this isn’t a complete list; another musician who fits the bill is saxophonist Kim Bock, who once played in my Greenwich Blue band with Nickelson and others.
And the new JazzTimes has a feature on Doug Hammond, a drummer, percussionist and composer who grew up in West Tampa, later lived in Miami, Detroit, New York, and California, and now resides in Linz, Austria.
As writer Ted Panken tells it, “Hammond’s roots are deep in the South, raised … where African-Americans and Cubans live commingled. Hammond took his first drum lessons at 7 from a professional conguero who lived across the street. Money was tight — he was the second of nine children — and a teacher gave him drumsticks. His all-black high school had a strong band program and he took full advantage, studying classical percussion eight to 0 hours a day toward a career as an orchestral or studio percussionist, only abandoning that notion when a teacher clarified the dim career prospects in that field for a black musician.”
Hammond began playing gigs around Tampa at age 16, according to the story, and split for Miami after high school. For the rest of the story, check out the November issue of JazzTimes, focused on drummers.
Time for a homecoming? Perfect for a spot on next year’s Clearwater Jazz Holiday? Or perhaps another local promoter will bring Hammond to play one of our area’s other venues. Just saying.