Tampa Jazz Notes: Christian McBride Rules at the Mahaffey; Ybor Jazz Fest Continues; Rickie Lee Jones Cancelled

 
Christian McBride
, easily the most recorded and most honored jazz bassist of his generation, brought his trio to the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg  Saturday night for two impressive sets’ worth of standards and original compositions.

Much of the music was taken from McBride’s new CD, due early next year on the Mack Avenue label.  It wouldn’t be overstating things to say that the group, with McBride (Mahaffey photo by Bridge Burke) joined by monster young pianist Christian Sands and similarly talented drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. (photo by Bridge Burke), played the hell out of the material.

Unlike some of his recent ventures, McBride’s current trio is focused on the acoustic bebop, hard bop and swing side of jazz, with a nod to funk and R&B only coming only at the end of the show, courtesy of a version of Johnny Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love” that also referenced Michael Jackson’s “Gonna Be Starting Something” and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Sands, 23, throughout displayed astonishing chops that were sometimes reminiscent of the likes of Oscar Peterson, and he also showed a lighter, more genteel touch, in the vein of the late Billy Taylor, one of the New Haven, Conn. native’s early teachers. Owens demonstrated precise, intuitive playing, throwing unexpected accents and bomb drops into the mix, and sometimes switching to brushes.

McBride, of course, was the show’s star, turning in jaw-dropping runs, chords, slides and harmonic plucks, and offering beefy tone and walking grooves that were heavily influenced by Ray Brown and Ron Carter, while still distinctly his own.

The trio offered standards and familiar pieces — “Monk’s “I Mean You,” “My Favorite Things,” Billy Taylor’s “Easy Walker,” Benny Golson’s “Killer Joe” — as well as McBride’s smartly turned originals.

Nice seeing McBride back in the Tampa Bay area so quickly, after bringing his “Kind of Brown” quintet to last year’s Clearwater Jazz Holiday; before that, he was last here with Pat Metheny‘s Trio, with drummer Antonio Sanchez, at the Tampa Theatre. McBride more than once told the audience how much he felt at home. So maybe he’ll make it an annual tradition?

(I’m writing a more detailed review of the fest for a jazz mag; I’ll link to it in this space when it’s published)

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

If the Mahaffey audience felt like a hometown crowd to McBride, maybe that owed in part to the number of locally based jazz musicians and jazz aficionados in attendance for what felt like a must-see on this year’s jazz calendar. We ran into pianists Kenny Drew, Jr. and Stan Hunter, drummers Ian Goodman, Mark Feinman and Steve Bucholtz (my old rhythm-section mate from the University of Florida jazz band), and bassist Alejandro Arenas, as well as Bob Seymour, the longtime jazz director for WUSF, 89.7 FM. Several musicians, and students, had a chance to attend a Q&A with McBride during sound check on Saturday afternoon.

That “just like home” feeling probably stemmed, too, from the fact that some McBride family members were in the audience, including a cousin, Faith Walston. McBride took a few minutes to give a shout-out to Walston’s recent book, “All Paws In: Lessons Learned From Loving My Rescue Dogs.”

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

Many of the above-mentioned locally based musicians are on the bill for the third annual Ybor Jazz Festival, which continues through Sunday at the HCC Performing Arts Building in Ybor City. Drew plays tonight, with Latin supergroup Guisando Caliente. Sunday, the trio Jazztek will be followed by Rayzilla’s Dreamboats. Admission is $15 daily. For more information, click here.

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

As mentioned on my Facebook page, I was REALLY looking forward to hearing Rickie Lee Jones, next Sunday (Nov. 11) at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg. Jones’ voice, jazz-pop songs and arrangements and great bands first impressed me back in the summer of ’79, when Chuck E.’s in Love” was part of the soundtrack of my teenage life (and background for an early romance). She had me at hello.

Unfortunately, the show was suddenly cancelled this week. I’ve not made any official inquiries as to why it’s no longer happening. On a whim, I contacted Rickie Lee through her Twitter account, and this is what she wrote in response: “Cancelled by promoter and manager. Come to the other date n florida.”

She’s also playing Nov 7 in Little Torch Key, Nov. 9 in Ponte Vedra, and Nov. 10 in Orlando. For more info, visit her site.

Airto, Last Night at USF

The great Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira came to USF in Tampa this week for a workshop, a talk, and, last night, an exuberant show in the intimate setting of Theatre 2 (portrait courtesy of Joseph Gamble).

Airto, who was an essential ingredient of Miles’ early ’70s  jazz-funk-fusion projects and went on to play with the original versions of both Weather Report and Return to Forever,  alternated between drumset and a table full of percussion toys during the concert. He was accompanied by his son-in-law, Krishna Booker, also a percussionist (and son of late, great bassist Walter Booker, Airto’s connection to many jazz greats in the late ’60s ).

For the first part of the show, the two joined the USF faculty jazz group, for a set of Airto’s compositions — some incorporating bossa grooves, one in 6/4 (or 3/2), one in 7/4. Several pieces had tenor saxophonist Jack Wilkins, head of jazz studies at USF, and trombonist Tom Brantley joining for unison lines, with Airto occasionally contributing wordless vocals. Brantley, with and without a mute, Wilkins, and LaRue Nickelson, whose guitar sometimes sported a fusion-style overdriven burr, turned in several of the evening’s most inspired solos. The group also included Mark Neuenschwander on acoustic and electric bass, pianist Chris Rottmeyer and drummer Ian Goodman.

Airto, for his solo piece, pounded out complex, driving rhythms on a large tambourine, sang along in Portuguese, used his voice (sans electronics) to create some harmonic overtones, and at the end added a whistle to create the feeling of a street parade at a Carnaval celebration in his home country. Booker turned in a brief “beatbox” solo – mouth sounds recreating hip-hop rhythms.

The show closed with a short set nicely contrasting with what came before. Brantley directed USF Jazz Ensemble 1 in performances of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” and “La Fiesta,” written by Chick Corea. Airto reminded listeners that he appeared on the original version of the latter tune, on the debut Return to Forever album, recorded in 1972 but not released in the U.S. until 1975.

SPC Jazz Fest: John Lindberg, Powell Brothers, Guisando Caliente, Helios Jazz Orchestra

Free-minded bassist John Lindberg, and a quintet co-led by saxophonist Jeremy Powell and trumpeter Jonathan Powell will play the second annual St. Petersburg College Jazz Festival, kicking off Thursday night (Feb. 4).

I interviewed fest direct David Manson for a story to be published in tomorrow’s edition of the St. Petersburg Times. Click here to read the story online, or see below for an extended version of the piece.

————————-

David Manson (left) had a straightforward goal in mind when he put together the bill for the second annual St. Petersburg College Jazz Festival. The three-day event opens Thursday night at the 320-seat SPC Music Center on the school’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs campus.

“We wanted to do a true jazz festival in St. Petersburg,” said Manson, a trombonist, composer, and head of jazz studies at SPC. “And we wanted variety — an evening of big band, an evening of Latin jazz, and a third night that’s kind of on the edge.”

Thursday night’s “Big Band Big Bang!”  program has SPC’s resident ensemble, the Manson-directed Helios Jazz Orchestra, joined by two singers – Sasha Tuck (right), who teaches in the college’s Music Industry Recording Arts (MIRA) program, and Dale Williams, who made his name singing in Detroit groups.

Friday night’s “Hot Latin Jazz!” show features Guisando Caliente (left), an all-star group of Florida players with acclaimed pianist Kenny Drew, Jr., percussionist Frankie Pineiro, saxophonist Jeff Rupert, drummer John Jenkins, and bassist Mauricio Rodriguez.

Edgy fare will close out the festival on Saturday, with a double-bill concert featuring the Powell Brothers Quintet, with saxophonist Jeremy (left) and trumpeter Jonathan (right)  joined by guitarist LaRue Nickelson, bassist Alejandro Arenas, and drummer Ian Goodman, and an opening set by renowned bassist John Lindberg (below, left)

Lindberg, in town for a two-week residency at SPC, co-founded the String Trio of New York, and has played with such free-jazz luminaries as saxophonist Anthony Braxton and trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff. He has been heard on more than 90 recordings, and in 2009 released his “Year 50 Album” and, with his Blob group, a CD titled “You Can’t Get There From Here.”

Last weekend at the Dali Museum, the bassist gave an unamplified, mostly unaccompanied performance during which he demonstrated his ability to improvise on bassist Jimmy Garrison‘s “Ascendant” and play expansively on several of his own compositions, all abetted by his creative, percussive use of his bow. On a new tune, “Floating Figures, Shifting Slips,” he was joined by Manson, and SPC faculty member David Irwin, on clarinet and bass clarinet.

The Powells both have roots in the Tampa Bay area, and both have experience playing and recording in New York City. Jeremy still lives here, and plays with Infinite Groove Orchestra, Swamp Logic and other groups. Last month he released two CDs – Amizade, with guitarist Nickelson, and his own Fluorinescence. Jonathan has worked with saxophonist Sam Rivers, bassist Reggie Workman, and hip-hoppers Q-Tip and Snoop Dogg. Recently the recipient of the “Latin Jazz Corner” website’s award for the best Latin jazz trumpeter of 2009, Jonathan will soon release an album titled Transcend.

The group will play all original compositions, plus an arrangement of “Here’s to Life” with guest singer Whitney James.

“I’ve been wanting to put Jonathan and Jeremy together on a show,” Manson said. “Unlike a lot of young players, they’re not really emulating or copying someone — they have their own style.”

Festival site: http://www.spcollege.edu/spg/music/jazzfest2010.htm

Tampa Jazz Notes 3.27.09: Ray Anderson at USF, WMNF Jazz Jam, Local Jazz Tracks Online

ray-andersonRay Anderson, a critically acclaimed trombone virtuoso known for injecting humor and grit — and creative use of the plunger mute — into his improvisations and compositions, joins the USF Jazz Ensemble I (the big band) for this Monday’s edition of the Monday Night Jazz Series.

The concert starts at 8 p.m. at Theatre 1 on the USF campus in Tampa. For more info, call the box office at (813) 974-2323 or visit the Monday Night Jazz Series site.

———-

Legendary saxophonist and composer Sam Rivers — leading his sam-rivers1trio, most likely — is slated to headline the first WMNF Jazz Jam, Sunday, May 31 at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa.

Rivers, 85 (believe it or not), based in Orlando, is a monstrously creative improviser who made his name on New York’s downtown loft jazz scene in the ’70s. He’s since led a variety of pianoless trios, big bands and other ensembles. The last time I caught him, several years ago, he was still going strong.

For his trio dates, Rivers typically plays tenor and soprano saxophones, flute and piano, and he’s usually joined by Doug Mathews, on acoustic and six-string electric bass, and bass clarinet; and a drummer (varies).

The mini-festival will feature a variety of Tampa Bay area groups, ranging from the gypsy jazz of Impromptu to the jazz-jam fusion of Infinite Groove Orchestra to the World Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble. The  program, organized by WMNF, 88. 5 FM DJs Ray Villadonga and Jimmy Lyons, also includes PBS and Trio Vibe (yes, my band with vibraphonist Sam Koppelman and drummer Don Capone).

The WMNF Jazz Jam starts at 4 p.m., and admission is $12 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, contact WMNF or Skipper’s (see above links).

———-

trio-vibe-pix-formalSpeaking of Trio Vibe, we’re one of several jazz groups showcased in a local music round-up penned by Tampa Tribune pop music critic Curtis Ross. The story is published in today’s Friday Extra; read it by clicking here.

Online, readers can also listen to clips of one of our tunes, “Zag,” from the CD (Almost) Live at Springs Theatre, as well as O Som do Jazz’s ” Com Esse Que Eu V” from Infinite Bossa, by the group co-led by trombonist/composer David Manson and his wife, Brazilian-born singer Andrea Moraes Manson. Ross also covers trombone-playing USF music prof Tom Brantley‘s Boneyard.

Once on the main page of the Tribune feature, readers can scroll down to see previous mini-reviews of recordings by Tampa Bay area jazzers, including Nothing Standard from singer Denise Moore and Then Some.

———-

denisemooreweb2Denise, headed to New Orleans next month to pick up some musical inspiration and enjoy R&R at the French Quarter Fest, has a new regular home for her music.

Starting April 1, the singer and her band will play Wednesday nights beginning at 7 p.m. on the rooftop balcony of the Bungalow Bistro in Seminole Heights (Tampa).  For more information, check out the restaurant’s web site. Reservations are suggested – (813) 237-2000.

———-

larueGuitarist LaRue Nickelson, saxophonist Jeremy Powell, bassist Michael Ross and drummer Ian Goodman play this Sunday’s jazz brunch at Gratzzi’s Ristorante at Baywalk, in St. Petersburg.

Music is from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., and admission (including the buffet) is $20. Gratzzi’s is at 199 Second Ave. N. The quartet’s appearance is sponsored by the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association.