Tampa Jazz Calendar: Branford Marsalis, Chick Corea and other heavy hitters ahead

Tampa Bay area performing arts centers and other venues are putting the spotlight on a surprisingly high volume of top-shelf jazz artists this month. When it rains, it pours. On the way:

Thursday, Jan. 11 — Branford Marsalis Quartet, with the acclaimed New Orleans-born saxophonist leading a group including pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner (unless there are subs). Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30. Link

Saturday, Jan. 13 — Chick Corea Akoustic Band, with the brilliant, versatile pianist, who makes his home in Pinellas County, joined by bass great John Patitucci on bass and monster drummer Dave Weckl. Two shows — doors at (approximately) 5 & 8:30 pm. Link 

Saturday, Jan. 13 — Sunshine Music Festival, with another great lineup of blues, rock, funk and more, again headlined by the superb Tedeschi Trucks Band, and including longrunning jazz-jam-avant trio Medeski Martin and Wood (MMW), Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s band, and NOLA funksters Galactic. Also: Hot Tuna, Foundations of Funk (with keyboardist/organist John Medeski from MMW, guitarist Eric Krasno from Soulive, and bassist George Porter, Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste from the Meters), and the Suffers. Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, 1 pm. (Dang, WHY does this fest have to be the same day as Chick Corea?) Link 

Saturday, Jan. 13 (Do all of these shows HAVE to be on the same day?) — Fast-rising Canadian-born trumpeter Bria Skonberg. Central Park Performing Arts Center, Largo, 8 pm. Link

Also ahead in January and February:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 10 — The Ron Reinhardt Group with guitarist Adam Hawley and saxophonist Kyle Schroeder. Charlie’s Sushi & Japanese Restaurant, Clearwater, 8 pm. Info/Reservations: 727 515-4454.
  • Friday, Jan. 12 — Serotonic album release party, with (opener) Jon Ditty. Dunedin Brewery, 9 pm. Link
  • Friday, Jan. 19 — James Suggs Plays the Music of Lee Morgan, with the popular Tampa Bay area trumpeter joined by pianist Stretch Bruyn, bassist Brandon Robertson and drummer Paul Gavin for a program of soul jazz and more. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Jan. 21 — Arbor Records artists Nicki Parrott (bass/vocals), Rossano Sportiello (piano) and Ed Metz (drums). Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Jan. 28 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit: Dave Stryker Quintet. HCC Ybor Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 pm. Link
  • Monday, Jan. 29 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit: Peter Bernstein, with the USF Faculty Jazz Ensemble. USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm. Link 
  • Wednesday, Feb. 14 — Whitney James‘ Jazz Valentine. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Wednesday, Feb. 21 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Tal Cohen (piano) Trio, with bassist Dion Kerr and drummer David Chiverton. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Feb. 22 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Saxophonist) Jeff Rupert Quintet with Veronica Swift (vocals), pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Ben Kramer, and drummer Marty Morell. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Friday, Feb. 23 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: B3 Fury with the Shawn Brown Quintet, with guitarist Nate Najar, saxophonist Jeremy Carter, and drummer Anthony Breach. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Saturday, Feb. 24 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Helios Jazz Orchestra with (vocalists) Whitney James & Chuck Wansley. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Feb. 25 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Pianist) Gabriel Hernandez Trio, with bassist Mauricio Rodriguez and drummer Dimas Sanchez. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link




The Stryker/Slagle Band Expanded, “Routes” (CD Review)

Together since the late ’90s, the band co-led by guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist Steve Slagle — I caught them at an IAJE conference back when — for its latest project has augmented the lineup with piano/keys, French horn, and, variously, two additional brass/wind players, thus expanding the group’s sonic palette.


“Routes” (Strikezone), released earlier this year, has generated critical acclaim and significant national airplay — including a seven-week run in the JazzWeek chart’s Top 10.

No wonder. The post-bop arrangements are inventive, the textures are warm and appealing, and the soloing is often provocative.

And there’s an accessible “hook”: Each of the eight original compositions is inspired by a geographical location, starting with Slagle’s opening, richly hued “City of Angels,” referencing the place where he was born and augmented with Bill O’Connell’s piano and John Clark’s horn. It’s partly a showcase for the composer’s probing alto lines. Was that a fleeting reference to “A Love Supreme” in O’Connell’s solo?

A nod to the other coast closes the disc: Stryker’s closing, aptly titled “Lickety Split Lounge,” named for the Harlem club where he auditioned for Brother Jack McDuff’s band when the guitarist first moved to New York, is a hard-charging blues shuffle benefitting from the addition of Clark’s horn to the guitar-sax harmonies.

There’s lots to treasure on the album’s road from West to East, including Stryker’s “Nothin’ Wrong With It,” cued by an earthy establishing riff shared by Gerald Cannon’s bass and Billy Drewes’ bass clarinet, and featuring a zig-zagging head; a Slagle-arranged fresh take on Mingus’s “Self-Portrait in Three Colors,” with all eight musicians aboard; Stryker’s relaxed, swinging, mid-tempo “Routes”; and Slagle’s undulating “Ft. Greene Scene,” alluding to Brooklyn, where the band’s co-leaders both have lived.

Stryer’s “Great Plains,” bolstered by mellow flute (Slagle) and tuba (Clark Gayton) harmonies, honors his Nebraska roots, while Slagle’s “Extensity” is a high-energy barn burner, impressively fueled by Cannon and drummer McClenty Hunter. Slagle’s sprawling, evocative “Gardena,” also referencing L.A., again gives the alto saxophonist and guitarist more room to roam.

It all makes for an immensely pleasurable trip, one that calls for a return trek. Sequel, anyone?