Tampa Jazz Notes: Child of the Sun Jazz Festival Returns; Don Capone Tribute; Jazz Cellar Underground Orchestra to Play

The Child of the Sun Jazz Festival, a first-class Lakeland event begun in 1988 with major input from late great cornetist Nat Adderley but shuttered after a great 20-year run, will be revived next spring.

That’s the word from Larry Burke, longtime music professor at Florida Southern College, original home to the event. The revived fest, to be sponsored by the Lakeland Rotary Club, will be held April 15-16 downtown at Lake Mirror. An affiliated triathlon is slated for that weekend, too.

Over the years, the fest, directed by Burke and usually held outdoors on campus and at Branscomb Auditorium (and sometimes in Munn Park) featured impressive lineups headlined by major jazzers. A partial list: Adderley, pianists Larry Willis and Rob Bargad, bassist Walter Booker, drummer Jimmy Cobb, saxophonists Antonio Hart and Vincent Herring, and percussionist Gumbi Ortiz (all of whom variously played or guested with Nat), guitarists Barney Kessel and Roni Ben-Hur, saxophonists Junior Cook and Ernie Watts, trumpeters Lew Soloff and Jeremy Pelt, and pianists Manfredo Fest and Kenny Drew, Jr. The fest, which took its name from the architectural theme of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed campus, also provided a showcase for many Tampa Bay area jazz musicians.

The lineup for the 2011 fest is TBA — check back here for updates.

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Several bands and musicians who worked with late drummer Don Capone, including Denise Moore and Then Some, and Trio Vibe (my group) are gathering to play a concert/jam in honor of Don, who passed away Feb. 12. We’re getting together Wednesday, May 12 at Lenny’s Latin Cafe in Temple Terrace, where Don played host to a jam session.

Trumpeter Dwayne White will be master of ceremonies for the evening. Music begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but donations will go to the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association’s scholarship fund. More details are TBA.

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The Jazz Cellar Underground Orchestra, who ruled the roost at Dick Rumore‘s old Jazz Cellar at Ybor Square, are reuniting to play a May 16 concert benefiting the jazz program at Blake High School in Tampa. I’ll post more info soon.

Remembering David Via, Jazz Drummer

One way of thinking about this: The famous jazzers are a dime a dozen. You know their names. I know their names. Everyone knows their names.

Then there are the guys like David Via, the great Tampa Bay area drummer and drum teacher who passed away Monday after a long illness.

Dave, who loved Tony Williams and Elvin Jones almost as much as he loved the New York Yankees, committed heart and soul to the music, fully lived in the music on stage, and shared his love for the music with everyone he met. He never sought fame, and never got it, really.

But he gained a reputation as a musician’s musician, a guy whose touch was so sure, whose feel for the drums was so sensitive, that few who played with him, or came under his tutelage, or merely heard him play, will ever forget it.

That, at least, is how I remember Dave, with whom I played dozens of trio shows over several years beginning in the mid-’90s, with LaRue Nickelson on guitar, under the name Greenwich Blue. We gigged everywhere from the old Dish restaurant in Ybor City to Borders Books & Music on Dale Mabry in Tampa to a couple of places in St. Petersburg. Dave and I and vibraphonist Sam Koppelman played a private party for the Indianapolis Colts, the third time the Superbowl came to Tampa, in 2001. We “opened” for Jay Leno, the evening’s headlining act, and I recall that big-time rock drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp) was in the crowd. When we played, Aronoff kept his eyes on Dave.

Dave’s playing, on uptempo swing tunes, bossa novas, ballads, and practically everything else, was always supportive, creative, and highly interactive. And his brushes playing was a work of art — crisp, clean, artful, precise, and sometimes cooking so intensely yet so quietly that my rock-damaged ears had a hard time hearing all the intricacies he routinely and with no fanfare unfurled.

Now, for the facts. Dave had just turned 59 when he died, reportedly following a major heart attack. He had been out of commission for several months, following an earlier heart attack in August.

Dave most recently taught drums at Jeff Berlin‘s Players School of Music, and Musicology, in Clearwater, and prior to that he taught at the University of South Florida in Tampa for eight years.

A native of Mayodan, N.C., with the twang in his voice to prove it, Dave studied  with , and Lynn Glassock. “Many many thanks to Otis Brown for selling me my first set of Gretsch drums,” he wrote on his MySpace page.

Dave performed with a long list of name artists, including Mose Allison, Barney Kessel, Charlie Byrd, Dizzy Gillespie (right), Pat LaBarbera, Slide Hampton, Carol Sloane, David Baker, Al Grey, Buddy Tate, Nick Brignola, Jimmy Heath, Claudio Roditi, David Murray, Joe Lovano, Billy Taylor, Kenny Werner, Ira Sullivan, John Abercrombie, Jeff Berlin, Rufus Reid, Sheila Jordan, Ted Rosenthal, Larry Coryell, Frank Kimbrough and Conrad Herwig.

His discography includes saxophonist (and USF jazz studies head) Jack WilkinsArtwork (Koch, 1995); pianist Paul Tardif’s Points of Departure (Koch, 1995);  pianist Ed Paolantonio‘s Dedications; and Minas, Blue Azul (1999)

More info from Dave’s MySpace page: “David has toured extensively with Jon Metzger as part of the USIA Arts America Program in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. These tours involved a rigorous performing schedule as well as teaching numerous clinics. In the States, David has performed in numerous Jazz festivals in Washington DC, Spoleto in Charleston, S.C., Indiana, Kentucky and Clearwater. He also performs with the Billy Siegenfield Jump Rhythm Jazz Project of New York City.”

Dave, we’ll miss you, your spirit, your humor, and your great playing.