Tampa Jazz Notes — Kenny Drew Jr. Memorial; O Som Do Jazz at HCC Ybor; Diana Krall at the Capitol

Aside from a piece in Jazz Times and some blog posts (including mine, below, and those in Jazz Truth, JazzWax, and via WUSF News), the late great pianist Kenny Drew‘s passing hasn’t attracted much attention in the music press or in mainstream newspapers. I didn’t see any notice of Kenny’s death in his hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times, or in the New York Times, which often notes the deaths of major musicians. (Correct me if I’m wrong).

Kenny, who died on Aug. 3 at age 56, will be honored by friends, family, colleagues and fans during a memorial service Saturday Aug. 23 at McCabe United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg. The memorial will be held at 11 a.m. at the church, 2800 26th Ave. South.

“His genius will be missed,” as noted in an announcement sent by the Tampa Jazz Club, home to many concerts featuring Kenny, including a terrific trio performance in May.

That trio, with bassist Joe Porter and drummer John Jenkins, recently released a CD, titled “The Music of Tom Becker.” As of now, it’s available via download through CD Baby and Amazon.

A memorial fund for Kenny has been established through his church, Unity of Midtown, 511 Prescott St., South, St. Petersburg, FL 33712. Donations can be made by checks payable to “Unity of Midtown” or via PayPal. More info is here.

**********

O Som Do Jazz, the Brazilian/jazz band led by trombonist/composer David Manson, plays the Tampa Jazz Club’s first show of the fall season — Sunday, Sept. 28 at 3 pm at HCC Ybor’s Performing Arts Building. More details.

SPC prof Manson, singer Andrea Moraeas Manson, saxophonist Austin Vickrey, pianist David Cubillos, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman will play music from the band’s two recordings. Two tunes from the group’s “A Kiss From Rio” recording were heard on the HBO series “Looking.”

**********

The good news: The jazz-rooted singer and underrated pianist Diana Krall is returning to the Tampa Bay area, with a show Dec. 14 at 7:30 pm at the the Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater (concert affiliated with Ruth Eckerd Hall). She’ll be joined by a first-rate band — guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Dennis Crouch, fiddler Stuart Duncan, drummer Karriem Riggins and keyboardist Patrick Warren.

The not-great news: It’ll cost you an arm and a leg to attend this show, as tickets START at $102.25. Seriously? Sure, it’s an “intimate” setting, but that’s about four times what you’d pay to see a show in the world’s greatest jazz club, The Village Vanguard in NYC. ‘Sup with that?

Details.

 

“Treme” Third Season Finale Loaded With Tons O’ Great Players

Has there EVER been a television drama that has given as much respect to musicians as HBO’s “Treme,” in terms of screen time, playing time, and genuine appreciation for musical art, not to mention insights into the day-to-day reality of working musicians?

I think not.

Sunday’s third-season finale, a prelude to the truncated Season “3.5,” wrapped up — or pointed in the direction of wrapping up — a ton of story strands.

In one, fiddle player and singer Annie (Lucia Micareli) sees her band’s debut CD released and enjoys a rather too speedy rocket ride to a national stage, with her manager planning a launch party in New York City. The script even works in a reference to New Orleans’ long-running music monthly: “This ain’t about Offbeat, darling,” he says. “It’s about Rolling Stone and the New York Times.”

At the Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street, site of a benefit concert, and elsewhere, Tons of great NOLA players play and/or get speaking lines, including trumpeters Kermit Ruffins, Irvin Mayfield, and Shamarr Allen; funk/R&B bass master George Porter Jr. (the Meters), keyboardist Ivan Neville, drummer Johnny Vidacovich, guitarist Little Freddie King and, in an intimate duo, singer John Boutte and pianist Tom McDermott.

At one point. four-trombone band Bonerama and series mainstay Antoine Batiste  (Wendell Pierce), a trombonist, are joined by TroyTrombone Shorty” Andrews and Big Sam. “Trombones rule the world,” Antoine says. Indeed. For extra measure, singer-songwriter Jill Sobule (Not from NOLA) joins the low-brass confab for “When My Ship Comes In.”

For fans of New Orleans music & culture “Treme,” while imperfect, is the ship that finally came in, an antidote to other TV series set in the Crescent City. I’ll be sad to see its voyage come to an end.

PLANET JAZZ: Irvin Mayfield, Last Night on “Treme”; Inside-Jazz Story to Read Before You Die; JJA’s Jazz Blogging Webinars

Planet Jazz: Notes From All Over

Nice seeing New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield get some speaking lines on last night’s “Treme.” Great, too, seeing some Mayfield performance footage shot at his Jazz Playhouse club inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon Street.

Lionel Ferbos, the century-old trad jazz trumpeter, was also seen and heard playing and talking, at the long-running Palm Court Jazz Cafe, in the episode. Ferbos, one of the oldest living links to early jazz, started playing at age 15, in 1926.

“Lionel Ferbos is 101 and he’s playing gigs. He’s walking up on stage, getting his trumpet out and playing,” Mayfield told the Times-Picayune. “He comes out of the water of Jelly Roll Morton, who he heard himself, Louis Armstrong, who he heard himself, Freddie Keppard, who he heard himself. Paul Barbarin, Danny Barker – these are people he heard. In his trumpet sound, you hear all that.”

The episode touches on the much-publicized drive to create a National Jazz Center in New Orleans. The developers of the $716 million project, announced in May 2006, enlisted Mayfield’s support. The project subsequently collapsed.

“Though the National Jazz Center and other subsequent efforts to establish some kind of civic institution to recognize New Orleans’ greatest export have fallen short, Mayfield is confident that such a project will some day get done,” Dave Walker wrote in the Times-Picayune.

” ‘It is just crazy that we have so much history but we don’t have symbols recognizing all that creative achievement,’ he said. ‘We’ve created this music that everybody else around the world is in awe of.’

***************

Remember “Ten Jazz Albums to Hear Before You Die,” a feature (initially published sans byline) published last week in the Village Voice?

Several jazz writers justifiably complained about the piece’s incompleteness, as it covered just 17 years of jazz history (1956-73) and its, uh, obviousness; we really needed another litany of the jazz canon? It didn’t seem to meet the usual, or, at least, former, high standards for a publication that once set a high standard for jazz coverage.

As a sort of (unstated) concession to the criticism, the next day the Voice published another piece, “Ten (More) Jazz Albums to Hear Before You Die,” by Matthew Kassel and Alex W. Rodriguez. This time, the (different) writers offered recommendations culled from about a century of jazz history.

Writing for NPR’s “A Jazz Supreme” blog, Patrick Jarenwattanon filled in some background on how the original ill–fated story came to be:

“The piece itself was simply repurposed from another publication owned by the same media company, and its author wasn’t even credited (it’s a fellow named Joseph Lapin, by the way). It was published by a media entity that used to run Gary Giddins’ column, and Francis Davis essays, and the Jazz Consumers Guide, and the year-end critics poll, and much other current jazz coverage. Underlying all this is the fact that two well-respected music editors, Rob Harvilla and Maura Johnston, have left the Voice in recent years.”

For those outside the jazzosphere, maybe this is all too meta?

***************

The Jazz Journalists Association continued its webinar series on the art of jazz blogging with a Nov. 13 program featuring Angelika Beener, Veronica Grandison, Alex Rodriguez, and Jonathan Wertheim.

The latest installment, focused on “up-and-coming” jazz bloggers, is archived on YouTube, here.  On the way are two more blogging webinars, slated for Nov. 20 and Dec. 4. Register

JJA members soon will unveil their Top 10 picks for 2012, surveying the year’s best jazz — look for the lists at the organization’s site.

“Making ‘Treme’ ” – Tonight on HBO

Just got the word from Basin Street Records head Mark Samuels: “Making ‘Treme,’ ” a behind-the-scenes look at “Treme,” a new series focused on New Orleans music and culture, post-Katrina, airs tonight on HBO.

Kermit Ruffins, the charismatic trumpeter and singer who plays himself on the series — like anyone else could step into that role — has recorded for Basin Street since 1998. His latest CD, “Livin’ a Treme Life,” was released last year. “Treme” debuts on April 11.

Check out Kermit’s version of “St. James Infirmary,” recorded at Tipitina’s, below.

And here’s a long New York Times piece, written by Wyatt Mason, on how David Simon (“The Wire”) went about creating “Treme.”

Key graph from Mason’s story: “As much as crime of every kind was central to “The Wire,” music is the focus of “Treme.” New Orleans-born and Juilliard-trained Wendell Pierce (William “Bunk” Moreland in “The Wire”) plays a trombone player looking for any gig he can get; Steve Zahn plays a feckless singer-songwriter with an allergy to paying work. As in “The Wire,” many nonactors, in this case professional musicians, have been cast in “Treme” in leading roles: the violinist Lucia Micarelli plays a street musician; a charismatic local trumpeter, Kermit Ruffins, plays himself; and dozens of other musicians — from Dr. John to Elvis Costello — appear in smaller parts. The cast is different from “The Wire,” however, because a number of more famous actors are part of “Treme.” John Goodman plays an English professor-novelist enraged by federal and municipal post-Katrina intransigence; the Academy Award-nominee Melissa Leo is a civil rights attorney with a soft spot for starving artists; and Clarke Peters, the distinguished stage and screen actor memorable in “The Wire” as the miniature-furniture-making detective Lester Freamon, plays an independent contractor and a Mardi Gras Indian chief.”

New Orleans Wins, and It’s Not Just About Football

The New Orleans Saints are bound for the Superbowl in Miami. And that reality, after last night’s victory, means something so much larger than football, as several commentators have pointed out.

It’s a big shot in the arm for the confidence of a city just beginning to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. And it’s a chance for the city of New Orleans to shine, to show off its pride and, more importantly, its unique indigenous culture, for a global television audience.

Here’s hoping that the Crescent City’s movers and shakers fully avail themselves of the chance — even from a distance — to spotlight the region’s music, art and food in a manner that best represents New Orleans and that that results in bringing droves of tourists back to the city.

That could result in long-term, long-lasting economic benefits for the city. Tourism means dollars, and more dollars can help in vital rebuilding projects.

In the short term, let’s hope that the city — particularly its educational institutions, arts organizations, and initiatives that address unemployment and related housing and hunger issues — benefits immediately from the hundreds of millions of dollars that will cycle through the Superbowl.

The Superbowl is just the first of several high-profile opportunities for New Orleans to shine, including the French Quarter Festival, Jazz Fest, and, perhaps most significantly, the April debut of HBO’s music-driven series “Treme.” How could  a television show starring ebullient trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, as himself, NOT charm audiences?

Opportunity’s knocking. Here’s to a great and productive season for a city poised for an overdue rebound.

HBO’s “Treme” Actually Gets New Orleans Music/Culture Right?

The more I hear about forthcoming HBO series “Treme,” the more I’m encouraged that producer David Simon (“The Wire,” “Homicide”) is going to get it right, in terms of artfully and accurately capturing the homegrown music and idiosyncratic culture at the heart of what makes New Orleans the only city of its kind in the world.

There are some good signs that Simon will do so, as related in jazz journalist Larry Blumenfeld‘s recent Wall Street Journal piece on the series, which takes its name from the neighborhood thought to be the oldest African-American neighborhood in the U.S.:

  1. Irrepressible trumpeter, barbecue maker and raconteur Kermit Ruffins, as New Orleans as New Orleans gets, is playing himself, and reportedly will get substantial screen time in the series, which focuses heavily on Mardi Gras Indian tribes and brass bands.
  2. Eric Overmyer, Simon’s longtime associate and a co-creator of “Treme,” for more than two decades has resided part-time in New Orleans.
  3. The writing staff includes NOLA-based author Tom Piazza, whose short book Why New Orleans Matters was an essential post-Katrina read, and New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Lolis Eric Elie, co-producer of a 2008 documentary on Treme.
  4. Wendell Pierce (“The Wire”), who plays a trombonist, is native to NOLA’s Pontchartrain Park neighborhood.
  5. Underappreciated jazz and funk saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr. is an advisor on the series. So is pianist and music scenester Davis Rogan. Rogan is working closely with actor Steve Zahn (Rescue Dawn), who portrays a local music devotee and DJ.
  6. Elvis Costello, a huge supporter of NOLA music (he teamed with pianist/composer Allen Toussaint for 2006’s The River in Reverse, and the two collaborated for a terrific performance at Jazz Fest) plays himself.

“It’s easy to get it terribly wrong, and terribly hard to get it right,” Simon told Blumenfeld.  “‘This won’t be ‘The Wire’ with a better soundtrack. It’s a completely different animal.”

I’m holding Simon to his pledge of authenticity. For the rest of the WSJ piece, click here.

———-

The series’ first 10-episode season will debut in April, according to a Nov. 8 report in the Times-Picayune.

“That this decidedly oddball project – set among the quirky denizens of a floodwall-failed city, it fits no recognizable TV genre – is proceeding at all counts as a small miracle,” Dave Walker wrote in the T-P.

Stay tuned.

(photo, above, left to right: Zahn, Ruffins, Pierce).