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 jambands.com)

“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.

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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.

 

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 grammy.com., ” as Nate Chinen points out in his column for WBGO.org. “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.

 

Mark Whitfield, “Live and Uncut” (CD review)

Guitarist Mark Whitfield remains a gifted improviser and bandleader, as demonstrated by “Live and Uncut” (Chesky), a set with bassist Ben Allison and drummer Billy Drummond, recorded live last year at Rockwood Music Hall  in Manhattan.

“Trio magic, more or less, ensues as the three, captured on a single binaural mic enabling heightened intimacy, turn in four tried-and-true standards and two Drummond originals,” I wrote, in my review for JazzTimes.

Check out the full review here.

Tampa Jazz Calendar: Branford Marsalis, Chick Corea and other heavy hitters ahead

Tampa Bay area performing arts centers and other venues are putting the spotlight on a surprisingly high volume of top-shelf jazz artists this month. When it rains, it pours. On the way:

Thursday, Jan. 11 — Branford Marsalis Quartet, with the acclaimed New Orleans-born saxophonist leading a group including pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner (unless there are subs). Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30. Link

Saturday, Jan. 13 — Chick Corea Akoustic Band, with the brilliant, versatile pianist, who makes his home in Pinellas County, joined by bass great John Patitucci on bass and monster drummer Dave Weckl. Two shows — doors at (approximately) 5 & 8:30 pm. Link 

Saturday, Jan. 13 — Sunshine Music Festival, with another great lineup of blues, rock, funk and more, again headlined by the superb Tedeschi Trucks Band, and including longrunning jazz-jam-avant trio Medeski Martin and Wood (MMW), Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s band, and NOLA funksters Galactic. Also: Hot Tuna, Foundations of Funk (with keyboardist/organist John Medeski from MMW, guitarist Eric Krasno from Soulive, and bassist George Porter, Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste from the Meters), and the Suffers. Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, 1 pm. (Dang, WHY does this fest have to be the same day as Chick Corea?) Link 

Saturday, Jan. 13 (Do all of these shows HAVE to be on the same day?) — Fast-rising Canadian-born trumpeter Bria Skonberg. Central Park Performing Arts Center, Largo, 8 pm. Link

Also ahead in January and February:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 10 — The Ron Reinhardt Group with guitarist Adam Hawley and saxophonist Kyle Schroeder. Charlie’s Sushi & Japanese Restaurant, Clearwater, 8 pm. Info/Reservations: 727 515-4454.
  • Friday, Jan. 12 — Serotonic album release party, with (opener) Jon Ditty. Dunedin Brewery, 9 pm. Link
  • Friday, Jan. 19 — James Suggs Plays the Music of Lee Morgan, with the popular Tampa Bay area trumpeter joined by pianist Stretch Bruyn, bassist Brandon Robertson and drummer Paul Gavin for a program of soul jazz and more. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Jan. 21 — Arbor Records artists Nicki Parrott (bass/vocals), Rossano Sportiello (piano) and Ed Metz (drums). Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Jan. 28 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit: Dave Stryker Quintet. HCC Ybor Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 pm. Link
  • Monday, Jan. 29 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit: Peter Bernstein, with the USF Faculty Jazz Ensemble. USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 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

 

 

Vijay Iyer Tops 2017 NPR Jazz Critics Poll

Congrats to pianist-composer Vijay Iyer, who again tops the NPR Jazz Critics Poll, a carryover from the old Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll. The Vijay Iyer Sextet’s “Far From Over” is named best new album, followed in that category by releases from alto saxophonist Steve Coleman, drummer Tyshawn Sorey, pianist Craig Taborn and flutist Nicole Mitchell.

I was honored to again be among the 137 jazz writers around the globe asked to participate. Only one of my Top 10 picks, Taborn’s “Daylight Ghosts” (ECM) made it into the poll’s final 10, and another, the debut from supergroup Hudson (Jack DeJohnette/John Scofield/John Medeski/Larry Grenadier) made the final 20.

I agree with the consensus on Cecile McLorin Salvant‘s “Dreams and Daggers” (Mack Avenue) for best vocal album, and my 3 picks for reissues/ historical, by Jaco Pastorius, Wes Montgomery/Wynton Kelly Trio, and Monk, are in the final Top 5 in that category in the poll.

Also in the poll:

  • Jaimie Branch‘s “Fly or Die” (International Anthem) is named best debut album; my pick — Nate Smith, “Kinfolk: Postcards from Everywhere” (Ropeadope)
  • Miguel Zenon‘s “Tipico” (Miel) is named best Latin album; my pick — Antonio Adolfo‘s “Hybrido — From Rio to Wayne Shorter” (AAM Music)

“Musicians of an intellectual bent dominated this year’s Top 10, and connections among them abound,” poll organizer and esteemed jazz critic Francis Davis writes in his overview of the poll. Read that piece, and his accompanying article “The Jazz Albums of 2017 and the Power of Gatekeepers,” and make some new musical discoveries.

Want to see ALL the results from the poll, with complete ballots from all the critics, including mine? Click here

Later, I’ll post my full Top 10 list here, along with some thoughts on those releases.

 

Disc of the Day: Plucky Strum (Sheryl Bailey & Harvie S), “Departure”

plucky strum

Plucky Strum (Sheryl Bailey & Harvie S), “Departure” (Whaling City Sound)

Harvie S first came into my view in the mid-’80s, when he was releasing albums as a leader on Gramavision, and had already built an impressive resume of performances and recordings with practically every major jazz artist you could name.  I was fortunate enough to catch him twice in Greenwich Village — with a group at the old Seventh Avenue South, and in a duo performance with singer Sheila Jordan at the Public Theater. That week, we chatted for a feature I wrote for DownBeat magazine.

The artist formerly known as Harvie Swartz hasn’t slowed down. In recent years, he put together Plucky Strum, a duo with well-traveled guitarist (and Berklee College prof) Sheryl Bailey. For their first, self-titled 2015 release, Bailey stuck to acoustic guitar. This time, she adds electric guitar, sometimes with effects and overdubs, to the mix.

The results are uniformly appealing, and it’s a pleasure hearing the two in a stripped-down sonic setting, each instrument projected with great clarity, with great wood-and-strings aural intimacy.

The program is characterized by intuitive interplay and fluent improvisations, starting with the tricky bebop-esque unison and harmony head of opener “Sublime,” one of three tunes here penned by Harvie. His “Now I Know” is a lush, laidback ballad, with a pretty melody sounded by bass, and “Good Ole Days” is a mid-tempo ditty built on steady walking bass.

Bailey’s “Old and Young Blues” is reminiscent of the kind of folkish pieces Charlie Haden wrote, with the two taking turns leading the theme, and the bassist turning in a typically probing, searching solo, followed by Bailey’s relaxed but rangy improvisation. Bailey also contributes the Latin-flavored, slowly shifting “Sabado Con Mi Amor”; the starting-stopping riff tune “What She Said,” which hints at Wes Montgomery and offers another stunning workout by Harvie;  the bluesy “Cranshaw,” built on a slow-grooving bass line and topped with overdriven, wah-edged guitar; and poignant ballad “Alone,” the disc’s closer.

All that, plus breezy, creative takes on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young hit “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and Joni Mitchell‘s “The Hissing of Summer Lawns,” the latter complete with acid-washed six-string. Here’s to more from Plucky Strum.