The Onliest Monk — Happy 101st!

Here’s a belated birthday toast to Thelonious Monk, who was born Oct. 10, 1917. Monk’s music, in its brilliance, quirkiness, humor and rootsy jazz soulfulness, remains an inspiration.

Hard to believe that it’s been 22 years since I helmed a Monk tribute disc, “Monk in the Sun,” featuring a long list of Tampa Bay area-based artists. I’ll forever be grateful to bass guitar wizard Jeff Berlin, and the late, great Nat Adderley and Kenny Drew, Jr., along with many other terrific but lesser known artists, for participating in the project. And to Tom Morris at the old Morrisound studio for their support.

Monk in the Sun

We received some local airplay, on WUSF, 89.7 FM, and WMNF, 88.5 FM and sold some CDs locally (but not enough to cover what we — me and Ronny Elliott — paid to make the project a reality).

I always wondered what impact it might have had if we had been able to make a larger promotional effort, particularly in terms of seeking national radio airplay. I suppose it could be reissued, at least as a digital download. But dealing with all the permissions, etc, from musicians, and all the copyright issues feels daunting. And it would take $$$$. Would it be worthwhile?


“After Midnight: Thelonious Monk at 100” (Tom Vitale, NPR, 2017)

“At 100, Thelonious Monk Gets a Hero’s Celebration” (Giovanni Russonello, New York Times, 2017)

“Celebrating 100 Years of Thelonious Monk” (Paste magazine, 2017)


Missing Jaco

Jaco Pastorius died 31 years ago today. He and Stanley Clarke were the two bassists who had the greatest influence on how I thought about approaching the bass guitar, particularly during my college years.

Here he is, below, turning in a typically brilliant performance on a 1976 trio date in Berlin with trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff and drummer Alphonse Mouzon (all three have passed away).

I always like to remind folks: Jaco didn’t die because of a fight, or because he was a “tragically doomed artist.” He was murdered by a beefed-up nightclub manager who pounded Jaco’s head on the pavement (as Pat Metheny reminded me once during an interview, and as recounted in Bill Milkowski‘s authoritative bio).

Jaco went into a coma for several days, and then died of a brain hemorrhage. Luc Havan, the man who killed the world’s greatest bass guitarist, was convicted of manslaughter and served only a few months in jail

I well remember when I heard about Jaco’s death — it really shook me up. I was in the newsroom at the Lakeland Ledger, where I worked as an arts/entertainment reporter, and I read it on (I think) the AP wire. I regret that I didn’t attend his funeral.

Sadly, I never got to see Jaco in person. I came close, in the summer of 1985, when I went to a Paul Butterfield show in NYC that was to feature Jaco. He didn’t make it to the concert. I recall that the concert promoter announced that he wouldn’t make it and offered to refund tickets for those who didn’t want to stay for the show (they got a sub, apparently). I was annoyed at Jaco’s no-show so I took the refund and left. I was living in Manhattan at the time, during my one-semester stint in grad school at NYU.

Want to understand more about who Jaco was, and why he mattered? Read the above mentioned bio, and check out “Jaco: The Movie,” the 2014 documentary produced by Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo.

Long live Jaco!



Wayne Shorter Rides Again, Via His Sprawling “Emanon”

Few veteran (read: older) jazzers find their way into the pop culture conversation as effortlessly and effectively as Wayne Shorter, the saxophonist/composer probably best known for his work with Miles’ Second Great Quintet and electric-jazz giants Weather Report.

The former group, with the two joined by the rhythm section of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and the late Tony Williams, remains a standard bearer, in terms of what jazz is about, and what jazz can do. And the latter, with Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius and others, still stands as one of my two favorite fusion bands.

And so it goes with “Emanon” (Blue Note), Shorter’s just-released sprawling set featuring three discs of music and a related graphic novel. Call it Shorter as superhero, as his brilliant quartet, with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, alone on some tracks and elsewhere joined by the 34-piece Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

It’s an ambitious collection of music, drawn in part from Shorter compositions that first appeared on the group’s “Without a Net” album, released in 2013. Bottom line: Inspired compositions and arrangements, high-level group interplay, surprising improvisations. Jazz for now, jazz for the future.

In the music’s sweep and grandeur, there’s something cinematic about these pieces. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising — Shorter is a major film buff, as I learned during a wide-ranging interview with him long ago for the Tampa Tribune, advancing his quartet’s appearance at Tampa Theatre. Our talk constituted one of my most memorable interviews with a musician, during my days on staff with daily newspapers.

“Emanon” (read as “no name” backwards) has all the right publications paying attention — even Rolling Stone, which seldom pays attention to jazz these days, and the New York Times, which notably has cut way back on its jazz coverage. My full review of the CD will appear in a forthcoming issue of Relix magazine.

Some “Emanon” reviews and features:

With ‘Emanon,’ Jazz Elder Wayne Shorter Grandly Sweeps the Stars — (Nate Chinen)

Wayne Shorter Unveils a Sprawling Multimedia Opus on ‘Emanon’Rolling Stone (Hank Shteamer)

Wayne Shorter, Jazz’s Abstruse Elder, Isn’t Done Innovating Yet New York Times (Giovanni Russonnello)

With ‘Emanon,’ Legendary Saxophonist Wayne Shorter Finds a Way to Marry Comic Books and JazzLos Angeles Times (Sean J. O’Connell)

At 85, Wayne Shorter is Still Pursuing the UnknownBoston Globe

‘Emanon’ by Wayne Shorter: Grand Ambitions on Full DisplayWall Street Journal





Queen, via 28 Trombones: “Bonehemian Rhapsody”

Love this 28-trombone version of the Queen hit, and the creative video direction/editing.

Courtesy of the International Trombone Festival.


Jiggs Whigham – Glenn Miller, Stan Kenton Denson Paul Pollard – Met Opera / Jacobs School of Music Jennifer Wharton – Leader Bonegasm – Thomas Hultén – Houston Grand Opera/Houston Ballet Josiah Williams – Blast: The Music of Disney Joseph L. Jefferson – Southeast Missouri State University – Gerry Pagano – Symphony – Javier Stuppard – Fresh2Def Horns/ Rath Artist Peter Moore – London Symphony Orchestra Marshall Gilkes – New Album! Martin McCain – Texas State University – Zsolt Szabo – Western Carolina University Jeremy Wilson – Vanderbilt University – Isabelle Lavoie – Thunder Bay Symphony Amanda Stewart – St. Louis Symphony – Dr. Natalie Mannix – UNT – Zoltan Kiss – Mnzoil Brass – Matyas Veer – Essener Philharmoniker Saatsoper Stuttgart – Paul The Trombonist – The Internet –… Karen Marston – Mt San Antonio College/Omni Brass Javier Nero – Jazz Soloist / Composer – Dr. Deb Scott – Stephen F. Austin State University – Tolga Akman – Lätzsch Performing Artist Domenico Catalano – SlideSticks Trio/Basel Symphony/Haag Artist José Milton Vieira – Orchestra Brazil György Gyivicsan – Szeged Trombone Ensemble – Brian Hecht – Atlanta Symphony –


Happy 35 candles, Amy Winehouse

The late Amy Winehouse was a phenomenal natural talent, a tremendously gifted singer with a wonderful feel for jazz and soul. She would  have turned 35 on Friday.

It took me a while longer than others — too long — to fully appreciate her abilities as a vocalist and song stylist. I regret not having had the chance to see her perform. And, obviously, I’m most saddened that she left us so soon.

Want insights into Winehouse’s gifts and into the exploitation of her talent, which doubtless played a part in the emotional upheaval leading to her death? Check out the Oscar-winning 2015 documentary “Amy.” You’ll be moved and, probably, angered by how she was treated by the relentless paparazzi as well as those who were closest to her, including her husband and father.

As a side note: My band, Acme Jazz Garage, frequently plays instrumental versions of her songs “You Know I’m No Good” and “Love is a Losing Game” during our regular gigs Thursday and Friday nights at Timpano in Tampa’s Hyde Park Village.

Tampa Jazz Calendar: La Lucha, Nate Najar, John Lamb, more

Two Tampa Bay area-based jazz artists with new CDs are playing special concerts in coming weeks.

La Lucha, the longrunning trio with pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas, and drummer Mark Feinman, is celebrating the release of the band’s decidedly funky “Pa’lante” album with a show tonight at the Palladium in St. Petersburg. Check out Ray Roa’s piece on La Lucha in Creative Loafing, and the trio’s recent interview on WFTS-TV.

Meanwhile, guitarist Nate Najar is in the UK, touring in support of his well-received new album, “Under Paris Skies,” and headed to the Palladium for a show on Oct. 4.

And John Lamb, the former Ellington bassist, will play with the USF Faculty Jazz Ensemble Oct. 1 at the USF Concert Hall in Tampa. The show is part of the USF Monday Night Jazz Series.

On the way:

  • Friday, Sept. 14 — La Lucha (album release). Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Saturday, Sept. 15 — Jazz in the Bay. Water Works Park, Tampa, 1 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Sept. 27 — Basia. Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, 8 p.m. Link
  • Monday, Oct. 1 — John Lamb with USF Faculty Jazz Jazz Ensemble. USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Tuesday, Oct. 2 — Helios Jazz Orchestra with Belinda Womack. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Oct. 4 — Nate Najar (album release). Side Door  at the Palladium, St. Petersburg. 7:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Oct. 11 — Stanley Jordan with Raul Midon. Central Park Performing Arts Center, Largo, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Oct. 18 — Clearwater Jazz Holiday*: Mindi Abair & the Boneshakers, Adam Hawley, more, 3:45 pm. Link
  • Friday, Oct. 19 — Clearwater Jazz Holiday*: Danny Kusz, more, 4 pm.
  • Friday, Oct. 19 — Clearwater Jazz Holiday after party: Allon Sams, Danny Kusz, Betty Fox, Alex Harris, more, Capitol Theatre, Clearwater 10:30 pm. Link
  • Saturday, Oct. 20 — Clearwater Jazz Holiday*: Lao Tizer Band featuring Chieli Minucci, Karen Briggs & Nelson Rangell, Clearwater Jazz Collective (La Lucha, Tom Carabasi, Jeremy Carter, Valerie Gillespie, John Lamb, Mark Moultrup, Nate Najar, LaRue Nickelson, Gumbi Ortiz, Jamie Perlow, James Suggs and Butch Thomas), more, 2 pm.
  • Sunday, Oct. 21 — Clearwater Jazz Holiday*: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Marcus Miller, REH/CJH Youth Band, more, 1:30 pm.
  • Sunday, Oct. 28 — Synia Carroll & Fred Johnson, HCC Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 pm. Link
  • Tuesday, Oct. 30 — O Som Do Jazz with Jose Valentino Ruiz. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Monday, Nov. 5 — Terell Stafford, USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Tuesday, Nov. 6 — U.S. Navy Band Commodores. Straz Center, Tampa. Link
  • Tuesday, Nov. 20 — Helios Jazz Orchestra: “License to Thrill.” Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Saturday, Nov. 24 — Dave Koz & Friends with Mindi Abair, Jonathan Butler and Keiko Matsui. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 8 pm. Link  
  • Wednesday, Dec. 5 — Brian Setzer Orchestra. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 8 pm. Link
  • Saturday, Dec. 8 — Manhattan Transfer and Herb Alpert. Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, 8 p.m. Link
  • Sunday, Dec. 9 — Peter White with Rick Braun & Euge Groove. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 7 pm. Link
  • Friday, Dec. 14 — Kenny G. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 8 pm. Link 
  • Sunday, Jan. 13 — Jack Wilkins/James Suggs: Tribute to “Kind of Blue,” HCC  Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 pm. Link
  • Friday, Feb. 15 — Herbie Hancock. Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 8 pm. Link

*Listing only the jazz artists on the bill. For the full schedule, click here.

Send Tampa Bay area jazz concert listings to

Farewell, Ira Sabin, a Major Force in the Jazz World

ira sabinFarewell to Ira Sabin, a jazz drummer who turned his attention to jazz journalism. In 1970, Sabin founded the publication that became JazzTimes. For nearly a half-century, the magazine* has been a major force in jazz, documenting the music and along the way influencing the art form.

Sabin, who also made a mark as a record-store owner and promoter, died of cancer at age 90 on Sept. 12, in Rockville, Md.

“He performed in some of Washington’s first integrated jazz groups and sometimes entertained at private parties at the Georgetown home of Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.) before he became president,” Matt Schudel writes, in a piece published in the Washington Post.

“By the late 1950s, Mr. Sabin was producing concerts and other performances, featuring such acclaimed musicians as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Oscar Peterson. In 1962, he bought out a brother-in-law who had a record store, renaming it Sabin’s Discount Records. The store, at Ninth and U streets NW, was in the heart of Washington’s thriving jazz district, within walking distance of two theaters and six jazz clubs. The shop carried one of the country’s largest collections of jazz recordings, and musicians often stopped by to shop and chat.”

JazzTimes began as a four-page newsletter for Sabin’s record-store customers, and included contributions by some of the country’s best jazz critics, Schudel writes. In 1970, he called the publication Radio Free Jazz, and it eventually grew to 28 pages. Dizzy Gillespie was the publication’s first paid subscriber. It was renamed JazzTimes in 1980, and become a glossy monthly in 1990.

Read the entire Post story here.


“Ira Sabin, JazzTimes Founder, Dies at 90” (JazzTimes — by Michael J. West)

Ira Sabin, Founder of JazzTimes Magazine, is Dead at 90 (New York Times — by Richard Sandomir)

“Ira Sabin: Cool Daddy-O!” (JazzTimes — by Dan Morgenstern, published in 2000)

*I’m a longtime contributor to JazzTimes.