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.



A Sunny Place for Shady People — Bouchercon


bouchercon logo

I’ve long been a fan of crime fiction, as well as literary fiction, sci-fi, horror, biography, and all kinds of non-fiction, to name just a few of my reading interests.

So it was great fun to connect with several bestselling crime/mystery novelists — friends and former Tampa Tribune reporters Tim Dorsey and Ace Atkins plus Michael Connelly and Lisa Unger — and Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times for a feature advancing last weekend’s big Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in St. Petersburg.

“Call it the chaos theory of crime fiction,” I wrote, in a piece published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “The genre, some say, is as much about order as it is about disorder — the murder and mayhem. In a world damaged by humans behaving badly, there’s something reassuring about seeing mysteries solved and evildoers brought to justice courtesy of mission-minded detectives.

Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Miss Marple, Travis McGee and Harry Bosch can’t save the world, but they could inspire confidence that good can triumph over evil.”

Read more here.

And a big shout-out to the CrimeReads site for linking to my story.

I had a blast at the conference, and will soon post about my experiences there.


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 jphilipbooth@hotmail.com