Bonnie Raitt: A Voice That’s Still Rough-Hewn and Righteous After All These Years (concert review)

For her headlining spot on opening night of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, Thursday night at Coachman Park, veteran singer and slide-guitar slinger Bonnie Raitt turned in yet another impressive set of blues-rooted rock and pop.

Raitt has a well-earned reputation for vocals that carry an emotional wallop, tight arrangements of catchy material, and dynamic musical connections with a high-voltage backing band — keyboardist Mike Finnigan, guitarist George Marinelli, bassist Hutch Hutchinson, and drummer Ricky Fataar. She hit her mark on all three counts, a testament to her consistency as a stage performer and, no doubt, the fact that the group has been on the road since April.

Drawing from her recently released “Slipstream” album as well as her hitmaking material from 20 years ago, she opened with two of the new ones, in the same order they appear on the CD — “Used to Rule the World” and “Right Down the Line.” The latter is a remake of the ’80s Gerry Rafferty hit, realigned with a deep reggae groove; Raitt said that Rafferty passed away (January 4, 2011) before she had a chance to show him the new arrangement.

As demonstrated right away, and throughout the evening, Raitt, at 62, is still equipped with a voice that’s rough hewn and righteous, and often sounds as powerful as decades ago.

The crowdpleasers were plentiful — “Something to Talk About”; “Love Sneakin’ Up On You,” with Marinelli’s stinging solo; the boogey ‘n’ bounce of John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love”; the poignancy of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” with Raitt seated on a stool, sans guitar; and “Have a Heart,” another tune built on light reggae rhythms.

While there were no letdowns, the momentum did slow a bit on some of the less familiar new tunes.

Two highlights came about midway through the 90-minute show. “Angel From Montgomery,” the John Prine song from Raitt’s 1974 “Streetlights” album, had her opening a cappella, letting singer-songwriter Maia Sharp (who led her own trio earlier in the evening) take some verses, and closing the tune with another instruments-free section focused on multi-voice harmonies.

Shortly later, keys man Finnigan took over, on soulful vocals and barn-burning B3 playing, for a rousing version of Ray Charles’ sassy “I’ve Got News for You,” a heavy dose of blues and jazz featuring one of Raitt’s most ambitious slide-guitar solos of the night. I’d vote to bring back Finnigan, leading his own band, for next year’s fest.

The Clearwater Jazz Holiday continues through Sunday; jazz fans will be particularly interested in Saturday’s lineup, topped by bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding and acclaimed vocalist Kurt Elling.

Clearwater Jazz Holiday: Free no more & acts announced: Bonnie Raitt, Avett Brothers, Mindi Abair

News on the Clearwater Jazz Holiday front: It’s no longer free, according to a Tampa Bay Times story published today.

Organizers have announced that, for the first time in its 33-year history, the fest will charge for admission: $10 at the door.

As late as last year, organizers said that they couldn’t/wouldn’t book top top-shelf jazz talent because of the expenses incurred. Hard to believe that line of reasoning, particularly given that the fest frequently has positioned pricey smooth-jazz artists at the top of the bill.

The response, among the jazz fans I talked to: Hey, we’ll gladly pay an admission fee if we can get heavyweight jazz talent – the artists who win jazz polls, for instance – in return.

The situation: Now there’s a charge at the gate, and the first three acts announced are decidedly NOT major jazz artists. So far: Bonnie Raitt (blues-rock-pop), The Avett Brothers (altcountry-Americana-rock-pop), Mindi Abair (smooth jazz).

Raitt is terrific, and, as a blues artist, makes a decent fit on a jazz festival. I look forward to hearing her show, part of a tour promoting “Slipstream,” her first new album in seven years. Abair is par for the course.

Then there’s the Avett Brothers. I’ve seen this siblings-led band grow from rootsy bluegrass-influenced contenders to making a nice splash in the broader Americana/pop world – I’ve caught several of their amazing performances at festivals held at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak.

But they have to count as a first – the farthest afield, musically, from jazz that the Clearwater Jazz Holiday has ever played host to.

Nothing wrong with an eclectic music festival. But for any jazz festival that wants to maintain its identity as a jazz festival, then the Avetts are a terrible fit.

Sad to say, but it’s probably time for the Clearwater Jazz Holiday to drop “jazz” from its name. I’ll still go — heck, I’d love to hear Raitt and the Avetts again — but I guess I”ll finally give up hoping that the event will return to its glory days as a major jazz festival.

That makes me sad.

The Clearwater Jazz Holiday is slated for October 18-21 at Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater. For more information, go here. Interested in suggesting an artist to play the fest? Send your thoughts to info@clearwaterjazz.com

(Meanwhile, up the road, the long-running Jacksonville Jazz Festival, held over Memorial Day weekend, is bringing in Sonny Rollins; Poncho Sanchez with Terence Blanchard; Corea, Clarke, and White; and more; it’s still free)

Tampa Bay area Concert Calendar – Jazz, Blues, Jamband, New Orleans, Americana, Rock, More

Selected concerts — jazz, blues, jamband, New Orleans music, Americana, worldbeat, pop/rock and more — on the music calendar of the Tampa Bay area and environs:

  • May 1 – Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers + Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.
  • May 3 – UB40, Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg, 8 p.m.
  • glsalley-pic-without-logoMay 8 – Ghetto Love Sugar, Infinite Groove Orchestra, Rocksteady@8, Yeoman’s Road, Davis Islands, Tampa, 9 p.m.
  • May 8 – Kings of Leon + The Walkmen, USF Sun Dome, Tampa
  • May 15 – War + Derek Jive & the Funky Five + Soul Purpose, State Theatre, St. Petersburg, 7 p.m.
  • May 16 – WMNF Tropical Heatwave: Chuck Prophet, Trombone Shorty, Bonerama, Michael Burks, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Sara Borges, James Intveld, BeauSoleil with Michael Doucet, Kinobe and Soul Beat Africa, Magadog, the Vodkanauts, Will Quinlan and the Diviners, and more, Cuban Club, Ybor City, Tampa, 5 p.m.
  • May 28 – Side Door Jazz: TRIO VIBE with singer Edgar Wilcox,  Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30 p.m.
  • May 28 – Stanton Moore, the Crowbar, Ybor City
  • May 29 – Damon Fowler Group + Shawn Kellerman, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
  • May 30 – Legendary JCs + TBA, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.
  • May 31 – WMNF Jazz Jam: Sam Rivers, Infinite Groove Orchestra, PBS, World Afro-Cuban Ensemble, Impromptu, and Trio Vibe, Skipper’s Smokehouse, 4 p.m.; $12 advance, $15 day of show
  • June 12 – Eric Lindell, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
  • July 18 – The Avett Brothers, Cuban Club, Ybor City (Tampa)
  • June 19 – Cope + Diocious, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
  • July 11 – 4th Annual WMNF Americana Fest: Blue Mountain, Ted Lukas and the Misled, Will Quinland & the Diviners, Have Gun Will Travel, Thomas Wynn & the Believers, Nervous Turkey, Black Finger, Mike Dunn & the Kings of New England, Matt Butcher, Nine Volts, and Roppongi’s Ace, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 4 p.m.
  • August 12 – Dave Matthews Band + Robert Earl Keen, Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa
  • October 9 – U2, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Also handy for concertgoers: Creative Loafing’s recent piece on the area’s Top 20 concert venues.

ARCHIVE LIST

2009 shows

  • April 17-Sunday, April 19 – Stringbreak Music Fest: The Waybacks, Hoots & Hellmouth (photo, left), Randy McAllister Band, Thomas Wynn & the Believers, The Greencards, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, Todd Charles, Have Gun Will Travel + more, Sertoma Ranch, Brooksville
  • April 17 – The Waybacks + Wildlife Refugees, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.
  • April 16 – Side Door Jazz: Denise Moore & Then Some, Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30 p.m.
  • April 10 – Dickey Betts & the Great Southern Band + Fastgun + Angels with Dirty Faces, State Theatre, St. Petersburg
  • April 10 – Saffire the Uppity Blues Women + Julie Black, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.
  • April 7 – Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
  • April 5 – Old School Tampa Reunion Concert: Beanstalk + Joe Popp, My Little Trotsky, and Maggie Council, Skipper’s Smokehouse
  • April 5 – Ribbon of Highway: Jimmy LaFave, Joel Rafael, Kevin Welch, Ray Bonneville, Ronny Elliott, Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johny Irion, Tampa Theatre
  • April 4 – Bill Wharton The Sauce Boss, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.
  • April 4 – Freddie McGregor + Junior Reid + Jahfari, Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg, 8 p.m.
  • April 3 – Ben Folds + Jukebox the Ghost, The Ritz, Ybor City (Tampa)
  • April 3 – Allman-Tyler Band (with Gregg’s son Michael), Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa, 8 p.m.
  • April 2 – Side Door Jazz: Stan Hunter (photo, left) Quartet with trumpeter Bob Swisher, bassist Michael Ross, and drummer Ron Gregg, Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg
  • March 28 – North Mississippi All Stars + Hill Country Revue, State Theatre, St. Petersburg
  • March 27 – Charlie Louvin + Will Smith and the Diviners, New World Brewery, Ybor City (Tampa)
  • March 27 – Toubab Krewe, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
  • March 26-Sunday, March 29 – Suwannee Springfest: Donna the Buffalo & others, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak (see my post on this)
  • March 20-22 – Tampa Bay Blues Fest: Fabulous Thunderbirds, Delbert McClinton, Irma Thomas, Bernard Allison + more, Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg
  • March 20 – “Swing Into Spring: A Tribute to Benny Goodman” : Ken Peplowski (photo, left) with Kenny Drew Jr. Trio (including bassist Joe Porter and drummer John Jenkins), The Palladium, St. Petersburg
  • March 20 – Spiritual Rez + The Hip Abduction, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
  • March 20 – The Original Wailers, Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg
  • March 19 – George Benson: Tribute to Nat Cole, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater
  • March 10 – Helios Jazz Orchestra with singers Rita Wilson, Joanna Rose, and Michael Cerone, First Unity Church, St. Petersburg, 7 p.m.
  • March 15 – Bonnie Raitt, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 8:30 p.m.
  • March 15 – Terry Adams Crazy Trio + Vodkanauts, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
  • Friday-Saturday, March 6-7 – TRIO VIBE (Philip’s band), Della’s Delectables/Della’s After Dark, Brandon
  • Friday, March 6 – COPE with Middle Rhythm Session, Skipper’s Smokehouse, 8 p.m.
  • March 5 – The Organic Trio, Side Door Jazz @ Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30 p.m. (Al Downing TBJA)
  • March 5 – Richard Drexler (performing and discussing his music), St. Petersburg College HS 109
  • March 5 – George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg
  • March 3 – Helios Jazz Orchestra, with saxophonist Butch Thomas, and singers Rita Wilson and Paul Wilborn, Palladium Theater
  • March 1 through Saturday, March 7 – Sarasota Jazz Festival: Dick Hyman, James Moody (photo, above), John Allred, Bill Allred, others, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Holley Hall and other venues, Sarasota
  • Feb. 28 – The Subdudes + The Ditchflowers, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
  • Feb. 28 – Mardi Gras Mambo: Neville Brothers + Dr. John and the Lower 911, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota
  • Feb. 28 – Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials, Ace’s Lounge, Bradenton, 8:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 23 – Bill Moring, bassist (photo, above), with USF Jazz Faculty Ensemble, USF-Tampa Monday Night Jazz Series, USF Music Recital Hall 
  • Feb. 23 – Bill Moring master class (open to the public), FAH 107, USF Music Building
  • Feb. 5-6 – Perpetual Groove, The Crowbar, Ybor City (Tampa)
  • Feb. 5 – B.B. King + Buddy Guy, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater
  • Feb. 5 – Kenny Drew, Jr. (above) Trio with bassist Richard Drexler and drummer John Jenkins, Side Door Jazz Series @ Palladium Theater, St. Petersburg (Al Downing TBJA)
  • Feb. 4 – Pato Banton, Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
  • Jan. 31 – SPC Jazz Festival: Sue Terry Quartet (w/ Richard Drexler, Mark Neuenschwander and Tracy Alexander), SPC Music Center
  • Jan. 30 – SPC Jazz Festival: Alfredo Rivera & Manigua + O Som Do Jazz featuring Andrea Moraes Manson
  • Jan. 29 – Dark Star Orchestra, Jannus Landing
  • Jan. 29 – St. Petersburg College Jazz Festival: Helios Jazz Orchestra featuring saxophonist Sue Terry (photo, above) and singers Joanna Rose & Rita Wilson, SPC Music Center
  • Jan. 27 – Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota
  • Jan. 27 – Keller Williams, Jannus Landing
  • Jan. 26 – Jon Metzger, vibraphonist, with USF Jazz Faculty Ensemble, USF-Tampa Monday Night Jazz Series
  • Jan. 24 – USF-Tampa Magic Marimba Festival/Conference, FAH 101 & 102
  • Jan. 23 – Big Sam’s Funky Nation +  The Trio, The Crowbar
  • Jan. 23 – Side Door Jazz: Mindy Simmons Trio – A Tribute to Peggy Lee, Palladium Theater
  • Jan. 23 – USF-Tampa Magic Marimba Festival/Conference, FAH 101 & FAH 102
  • Jan. 18 – Donna the Buffalo, Skipper’s Smokehouse
  • Jan. 16 – Richard Drexler and Kenny Drew, Jr. (“Keyboard Explosion”) with bassist John Lamb and drummer Don Capone, Mahaffey Theater  Bayview Room
  • Jan. 11 – Ira Sullivan (photo, above) Quartet with  Michael Royal, Richard Drexler and Danny Gottlieb, Springs Theatre, (Tampa Jazz Club)
  • Jan. 9 – Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe,  State Theatre
  • Jan. 9 – Pinetop Perkins + Liz Pennock & Dr. Blues, Skipper’s Smokehouse (Philip’s preview, St. Petersburg Times)
  • Friday, Jan. 9 & Saturday, Jan. 10 – TRIO VIBE (Philip’s band), Della’s Delectables, Brandon
  • Jan. 8 – Guisando Caliente Latin Jazz Quintet (with saxophonist Jeff Rupert and pianist Kenny Drew, Jr.), Side Door Jazz, Palladium Theater (Al Downing TBJA)
  • Jan. 3 – Bonerama, Aces Lounge, Bradenton (Philip’s preview, St. Petersburg Times)
  • Jan. 2-3 – J.J. Grey & Mofro + Inca Maya, Skipper’s Smokehouse (Philip’s preview, St. Petersburg Times)
  • Jan. 2 – Galactic + the Lee Boys, Jannus Landing (Philip’s preview, St. Petersburg Times)

2008 shows