Public Libraries For the Win!



Libraries have been a big part of my education since elementary school, when I regularly checked out books from the libraries at Cleveland Court and Southwest elementaries in my home town, Lakeland, Florida. I also recall getting my parents to buy me some books at the annual Scholastic “book fairs” at those schools.

In high school, I researched and wrote several papers via the resources of the Lakeland Public Library, still located on the shores of the beautiful Lake Morton, home to a family of nesting swans and the annual Mayfaire by-the-Lake art festival.

There, at age 14 or 15, I checked out one of my earliest “real jazz” albums, a vinyl (of course) copy of Miles Davis’s “Milestones.” I distinctly recall listening to the record, and then asking my Lakeland High School band director, Ron Wilder, why Miles made so many “mistakes.”

(BTW, Ron remains a first-class trumpeter, and he played on two tracks on the 2016 CD release by my band, Acme Jazz Garage).

Books, of course, can open doors for kids, particular those for whom buying a book might be out of the question.

“A kid who thinks critically and reads” can go far in life,” as bestselling author Karin Slaughter said Saturday at Bouchercon, the huge annual crime/mystery fiction conference, this year held in St. Petersburg. Someone who develops those skills will have the opportunity to find a job, and contribute to society.

“It’s so much cheaper to give a kid a book than to imprison him for the rest of his life,” said Slaughter, founder of the Save the Libraries project. The initiative has raised more than $300k for the DeKalb County (Georgia) Library Foundation. She writes about her fight for libraries here.

“According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans ages 16 and over used a public library in the past year, and two-thirds say that closing their local branch would have a “major impact on their community,” according to sociologist Eric Klinenberg, writing for the New York Times.

” … in New York and many other cities, library circulation, program attendance and average hours spent visiting are up. The real problem that libraries face is that so many people are using them, and for such a wide variety of purposes, that library systems and their employees are overwhelmed.”

Read more here. 

All of this is to say that … public libraries are important. Get a library card today — or renew yours if it has expired.

Support libraries when and where you can.


The old daze: High-caliber jazz on TV

Remember when talk shows frequently featured world-class jazz artists?

Check out the clip of Mel Torme and the Buddy Rich Orchestra, both in top form, on the Merv Griffin Show. Great performances of several tunes, including some from the 1978 “Together Again — For the First Time” album that they’d just recorded, one of my favorite big band albums from that period.

Tunes (some with Mel): “Bluesette,” “Ella (Lady) Be Good,” and “Birdland.”

Bonus: Brilliant tenor and soprano solos by saxophonist Steve Marcus and scatting by Mel. Split-screen shots of some back-and-forth between Mel and Buddy, and some funny conversations with both. Redd Foxx stops by to sing “Fine Brown Frame” with the band, and chats with Merv, Mel and Buddy. And Henny Youngman tells jokes and plays bad violin!

In honor of Name Dropping Saturday …  I met and interviewed Torme at the Lakeland Civic Center in about ’87, when I was the entertainment reporter for The Ledger.

Good times!

Jeremy Pelt x 2: “Noir en Rouge” & (with Jim Snidero) “Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley”

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt shines on two recently released albums:

“Noir en Rouge: Live in Paris” (High Note Records) documents his two-night stand last fall in the City of Lights, where he led a quintet with pianist Victor Gould, bassist Vicente Archer, drummer Jonathan Barber, and percussionist Jacquelene Acevedo at the intimate Sunset/Sunside club. Their set was drawn in part from the group’s 2017 “Make Noise!” album.

The clip, above, features the same group, playing last year’s Montreal Jazz Festival.

“Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley” (Savant Records) has Pelt connecting with alto saxophonist Jim Snidero for a disc celebrating the repertoire and legacy of the soul-jazz legend, who would have turned 90 this year. They’re joined by pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Billy Drummond.

Check out my full review of the albums, published in JazzTimes magazine.



Tampa Jazz Calendar: Chick Corea, Marcus Miller, Stanley Jordan, more

Chick Corea, doing a solo piano concert, monster bass guitarist Marcus Miller, and guitarist Stanley Jordan are among the jazz heavyweights playing the Tampa Bay area this fall.

chick corea piano-laughing

The season also brings a long list of shows by our area’s top-shelf locally based jazzers. And — deja vu — another edition of a jazz festival with an embarrassing shortage of jazz on the bill.


  • Thursday, Aug. 16 — Jack Wilkins, Whitney James, James Suggs, LaRue Nickelson, Patrick Bettison: “Cannonball and Nancy.” Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Friday, Aug. 17 — Chick Corea (solo). Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, 8 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Aug. 30 — Boney James. Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, 8 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Aug. 26 — Tom Carabasi’s New Standards Quintet with John O’Leary, Alejandro Arenas, James Suggs, and Jeremy Carter. HCC Ybor, 3 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Sept. 2 — EMIT 4tet, with Alejandro Arenas, Kevin Wilder, Butch Thomas, and David Manson. Creative Pinellas, Largo, 2:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Sept. 6 — O Som Do Jazz + Francois de Lima. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 30 — O Som Do Jazz with Jose Valentino Ruiz. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 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 
  • 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.

Have news about Tampa Bay area jazz concerts and other jazz happenings? Contact

Montreal Jazz Fest: Scintillating if Sweaty — Herbie, Kamasi, Medeski, more.

montreal fest poster 2018

By now, you’ve probably heard about the heat wave that landed in Quebec, just in time for the 39th annual Montreal International Jazz Festival, which in some years has attracted an attendance estimated at two million. It was a scorcher of historic proportions, with temps rising into the high 90s during the day and not dropping below the mid-80s on some evenings.

The cool vibes of the fest, which ran for 10 days in mid-summer and featured performances by 3,000 musicians from 300 countries at 500 indoor and outdoor shows, nevertheless made a soothing balm for that extended bout of steam heat.

For  my fifth visit (if I’m counting correctly), I enjoyed what felt like a year’s worth of great shows in a short period — four days’ and nights’ worth of memorable concerts, from Friday, June 29  through Monday, July 2.

Montreal Fest overview

Montreal’s jazz fest, unlike some others, which, say, focus on smooth jazz or have turned into predictable affairs dominated by nostalgic hitmaking acts, successfully programs several varieties of jazz, and also incorporates other genres — notably blues, world music, Americana, and new and classic pop, rock, and hip-hop.

Most importantly, for jazz fans, the fest continues to bring in high-caliber artists playing acoustic/straightahead jazz, fusion, Latin jazz, avant/outside, and other varieties variously influenced by funk, soul, and rock.

The fest’s multiple series of “Invitation” shows, held in the cool, comfortable Gesu, an intimate theater beneath an historic stone church, are always a treat. I have fond memories of Cuban piano monster Gonzalo Rubalcaba‘s series at the fest, way back in 2002 (During Rubalcaba’s stint, I interviewed him for downbeat).

This year was no exception: John Medeski, the gifted pianist, organist and keyboardist in the long-running trio Medeski Martin and Wood, over three nights offered close-up views of his eclectic musical passions.

Medeski’s most accessible performance was with Mad Skillet, a group generally inspired by New Orleans rhythms and textures. The quartet included guitarist Will Bernard; NOLA tuba wizard and Dirty Dozen Brass Band co-founder Kirk Joseph, who spiced his tuba ministrations with special effects; and drummer Julian Addison. NOLA funk was the operating groove, and a color-shifting take on Sun Ra’s “Golden Lady” was one of several gems the band played on June 30.

Mad Skillet sounded more confident and more open to taking chances with their arrangements and their repertoire than when I heard them in January 2017 at the GroundUp Music Festival in Miami, with Terence Higgins on drums (I reviewed the fest for JazzTimes).

Medeski and Marc

For a June 29 trio set with guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer J.T. Lewis (above), Medeski held forth on B3 organ, and gave lots of space to Ribot’s bluesy, bent six-string excursions. The three mostly dug into into jazz-funk for the likes of Horace Silver’s “Strollin’ ” and an imaginative version of Steppenwolf’s “Sookie Sookie.”

Night 3 (July 1) was all about nearly nonstop electroacoustic improvisations, with Medeski joined by a pair of drummers — MMW bandmate Chris Wood, and Mark Guiliana — and the three collectively generating multicolor sounds and funk, rock, hip-hop, and EDM rhythms via a large arsenal of keyboards and percussion instruments. (The Medeski series was followed by two others — by Guiliana, overlapping with his show with Medeski, and Dr. Lonnie Smith).

There was much more to hear and see, of course, as hundreds of thousands of concertgoers flooded onto the streets around the Place des Arts performing arts complex. My review of the fest’s first few days for JazzTimes, which the mag combined with Sharonne Cohen‘s overview of the second half, is available here.

A quick look at some of the other jazz-oriented shows I caught in Montreal:


  • Herbie Hancock, above, at the beautifully appointed Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier theater, led a quartet with guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist James Genus, and drummer Trevor Lawrence Jr. They offered 100 minutes of high-energy fusion and funk. Pulling out his keytar at one point, the jazz legend aired out some new tunes, along with the likes of “Come Running to Me,” “Cantaloupe Island,” “Actual Proof,” “Watermelon Man,” and the closing “Chameleon.” Six-string bass guitar virtuoso Thundercat applied his falsetto vocals and speedy solos to a blast of soulful next-gen fusion. Kamasi
  • Kamasi Washington, above, the widely celebrated L.A. tenor saxophonist and unofficial leader of a newfangled, school of soul-rooted, R&B-influenced jazz, was garbed in a yellow-and-purple robe for his ecstatically received, SRO set at the huge Mtelus nightclub. Joined by his father, Rickey Washington, on soprano sax, trombonist Ryan Porter, bassist Miles Mosley, singer Patrice Quinn, keyboardist Brandon Coleman, and drummers Robert Miller and Tony Austin, he turned in soaring, spiritually minded anthems, deep funk grooves, and occasional detours into hard bop, partly imbued with a cosmic black-power vibe. Those musical and visual references to John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Sun Ra? Yes, they were organic, but also intentional. The set, drawn from this year’s “Heaven and Earth” album, last year’s “Harmony of Difference” EP and 2015’s breakthrough “The Epic” album: “Street Fighter Mas,” “The Rhythm Changes,” Giant Feelings,” drums feature “Bobby and Tony’s Day Off,” “Space Travelers Lullaby,” and “Fists of Fury.”
  • Cory Henry, the former Snarky Puppy keyboardist, cranked up his synthesizer and amped up the jazz-funk at the MTelus on “Love Will Find a Way,” a raucous cover of “Proud Mary,” and “Send Me a Sign,” among other crowd favorites.
  • Jose James, opening for Henry, offered smartly arranged, perfectly calibrated versions of Bill Withers‘ old-school R&B classics: “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Grandma’s Hands,” “Who is He (and What is He to You),” “Use Me,” and “Lean on Me,” the last one complete with a call-and-response section with the crowd and a statement of faith: “This is my religion .. diversity and unity,” he said. Backed by a group including the top-shelf rhythm section of bassist Ben Williams and drummer Nate Smith, James also brought out “Kissing My Love,” “Just the Two of Us,” and “A Lovely Day.” Most or all of those tunes will be heard on James’ forthcoming Withers tribute album, “Lean on Me.”

(My review of Americana hero Ry Cooder‘s set will be published in a forthcoming issue of Relix magazine.)

Tom Carabasi’s New Standards Quintet kicks off Tampa Jazz Club’s fall season

Here comes a shot of real jazz to start Tampa’s fall arts season: The Thomas Carabasi New Standards Quintet kicks off the Tampa Jazz Club’s new slate of shows at HCC in Ybor City, Sunday, Aug. 26 at 3 pm.

tom carabasi

The highly regarded Sarasota-based drummer & Ringling College photography prof will be joined by pianist John O’ Leary and bassist Alejandro Arenas (both from La Lucha), saxophonist Jeremy Carter, and trumpeter James Suggs.

The group plays “a mix of jazz classics with a contemporary twist, along with lesser-known material by great jazz and Brazilian composers (think Mingus, Jobim, and Pharoah Sanders, for starters),” according to the press notes.

The Jazz Club concerts are held in the college’s beautifully appointed, acoustically pristine 246-seat Mainstage Theatre.

For more information, visit Tampa Jazz Club.