Acme Jazz Garage — Ascending?

I seldom write about my own projects here, but thought I’d throw out a quick note about the CD recently released by my band, Acme Jazz Garage, on my Solar Grooves label.

relix review

Acme Jazz Garage is gaining momentum via national jazz-radio airplay, and good reviews in magazines and newspapers.

A few updates:

RADIO :

  • Our CD is in its fifth week of airplay on jazz stations across the US (check its progress on the JazzWeek chart).
  • It has aired on Tampa’s WUSF and WMNF; WFCF in St. Augustine, FL; KEWU in Cheney/Spokane, WA; WCLK in Atlanta, Ga.; WAER in Syracuse, NY; KSDS in San Diego, CA; Jazz From Gallery 41 in Berkeley, CA; WTJU in Charlottesville, Va.; WSHA in Raleigh, NC; WWSP in Stephens Point, WI; KRTU in San Antonio, TX; KCCK in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and KRFC in Fort Collins, CO, among other stations.

PRESS:

  •   Relix magazine critic Wayan Zoey calls the CD “a solid collection of revivalist funk and swing … influences are rooted in ’70s fusion, and the various contemporary pop styles that surrounded it … a much more enjoyable experience than your average ‘trad jazz’ album … a capable excursion through one of the most playful eras of America’s cultural history.”
  • Creative Loafing/Tampa just gave us a four-star review: “The 10-track set is not only fun but a rather excellent demonstration of what four vet musicians can accomplish with some quality time in the studio and a little help from their friends.”
  • Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association and a contributor to NPR, says the CD “mixes the best bits of the Meters, Santana, Robben Ford, Grover Washington, Anita O’Day, Joe Sample, Roy Ayers and Marcus Miller into a refreshingly breezy sound.”
  • “Some funky R&B, and straight-ahead jazz, and it coule be one of the outstanding local releases of 2016,” says Randy Wind, program director at WMNF in Tampa.
  • ” ‘Resonance’ immediately made me think of Steely Dan,” says Louis Maistros, New Orleans singer/songwriter and acclaimed novelist. “And (I hear) hints of the Crusaders. The rest felt like its own thing. This is really a hot little combo. Mission accomplished. It’s a damn fine record. Bravo!”

Acme Jazz Garage, the band’s debut full-length set of original compositions, features an eclectic mix of original jazz compositions played by the core quartet (Matt Swenson, guitar; Bryan Lewis, keys; Tim Diehl, drums; me on bass) plus special guests.

We were joined by conga master Gumbi Ortiz; who tours with Al Di Meola; singer Whitney James; saxophonists Jeremy Powell (Arturo O’Farrell Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra), Rick Runion and Austin Vickrey; vibraphonist Sam Koppelman; and trumpeter Ron Wilder. The music was recorded and engineered by John Stephan at his Springs Theatre studio in Tampa, and mixed in L.A. by Ruairi O’Flaherty.

The tracks:

^  “Mongo Strut” (Booth) — Latin-edged funk spiked with congas

^ “Resonance” (Lewis) — multipart contemporary fusion (some folks hear Steely Dan)

^ “Sandprints” (Booth) — a 5/4 piece inspired by Wayne Shorter, featuring Powell on soprano sax

^  “Last Call” (Booth) — a retro vocal tune (Manhattan-romance theme) with vocals, trumpet and vibes

^  “Acmefied” (Booth) — straight-up jazz funk

^  “Zag” (Booth) — straightahead, swinging jazz with two tenor saxes (Vickrey and Runion) and vibraphone

^  “Mr. G.P.” (Booth) — New Orleans-style R&B named for Meters bassist George Porter, Jr., with a tpt-tenor-bari horn section

^  “Rubberman” (Booth) — jammy-leaning jazz with flute (Vickrey) and tenor (Runion)

^ A bluesy version of “America the Beautiful” (arr. by Lewis) — think Ray Charles; perfect for airplay on the July 4 weekend.

To get your very own copy of the CD, as a physical disc or download, click here

For more information on the band, visit us on Facebook; go to our web site; or stop by Solar Grooves. Twitter: @acmejazzgarage

 

 

What the Critics Are Saying About Acme Jazz Garage

Acme Jazz Garage (Solar Grooves SG-001) is available here.

“Without a doubt, Acme Jazz Garage is the Tampa Bay area’s most adventurous jazz band. Its debut recording project finds the 5-year-old quartet in a jam-band groove, dipping its collective toes into straight-ahead jazz, Latin-tinged funk, R&B and a more modern jazz/fusion sound.

Bassist Philip Booth, drummer Tim Diehl, keyboard ace Bryan Lewis and guitarist Matt Swenson comprise the core band on this eponymous session, with a little help on various tracks from a variety of musical friends with whom the players have worked over the years. Lewis’s keyboard work, particularly on Hammond B-3, and Swenson’s melodic, often searing, guitar, dominate the group sound, layered over an infectious groove set by Booth and Diehl.

And who, you ask, stopped by to have a bit of fun on this session? Singer Whitney James is featured on Booth’s Manhattan romance- and-bebop-inspired “Last Call.” Veteran Al Di Meola percussionist Gumbi Ortiz spices up “Mongo Strut” and “Mongo Jam.” Jeremy Powell, now making his mark on the New York jazz scene in a variety of top-flight bands, is featured on soprano sax on “Sandprints,” a clever 5/4 piece inspired by Wayne Shorter’s best-known jazz classic “Footprints.”

Saxophonists Rick Runion and Austin Vickrey, vibes player Sam Koppelman and trumpeter Ron Wilder also bulk up the band on a variety of tracks, most notably “Zag,” “”Rubberman” and “Mr. G.P.,” the latter a N’awlins groove tribute to The Meters’ bassist George Porter Jr.

From start to finish, Acme Jazz Garage and friends make it clear that the Tampa area is blessed with great jazz talent.

–KEN FRANCKLING, author/photographer, “Jazz in the Key of Light”; Ken Franckling’s Jazz Notes; contributor, JazzTimes, Hot House, allaboutjazz.com

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“Have you ever had a CD get stuck in your player? Not physically, but because it is so darn good you need to hear it over and over again?

That’s what happened when I popped the new recording from Acme Jazz Garage into the player. I’ve seen these guys in different settings, from purely straight ahead to all-out funk, but I simply wasn’t prepared for a disc this superb, start to finish.

They come out swinging straight out of the starting gate with “Mongo Strut,” a reworking of a tune by bassist Philip Booth. This jazz/funk outing features guest percussionist Gumbo Ortiz, long a Tampa Bay area star and Al Di Meola bandmate. Bryan Lewis gives his clavinet a workout, and Ortiz and drummer Tim Diehl are in perfect sync, powered by Booth’s electric bass.

The next track, “Resonance,” still blows me away, and that’s after more than a dozen times through the disc. Composer Lewis opens with electric piano, and then Matt Swenson gets to work. His playing throughout is nothing short of spectacular. This tune goes through a variety of changes, and he nails every one. Booth and Diehl are a monster rhythm section. Lewis takes a great solo as well.

“Sandprints” is Booth’s homage to Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” magnificently rendered with Jeremy Powell on soprano saxophone. Powell is another Tampa Bay area jewel who moved to New York. (Jeremy and NYC trumpeter brother Jonathan played with Booth in Ghetto Love Sugar). Rick Runion, a fine tenor player from Lakeland, plays harmony with Jeremy here. The track begins with Booth’s beautiful double bass tones, then Jeremy and the band join in.

Booth adds a vocal tune to the mix with “Last Call,” his impressions of New York City during his time there and historically as well. Whitney James is the singer here, and her voice perfectly accents Booth’s lyrics. The tune also features vibraphonist Sam Koppelman, a truly impressive player whose contributions here and on “Zag” are first-rate. Ron Wilder plays trumpet… and he was Booth’s jazz instructor back in the day!

“Zag” is a gorgeous tune Booth used to play with Trio Vibe. Koppelman is perfect here, and Austin Vickrey and Runion join in on tenors, with a solo from Vickrey. This song swings so hard, driven by Booth on bass. Beautiful acoustic piano from Lewis adds to the sheer delight of this track.

Booth next honors George Porter, Jr., the king of New Orleans bass players and a member of the legendary Meters, with “Mr. G.P.” (a reference to Coltrane’s tune “Mr. P.C.”). If you’re going to do NOLA, you’re gonna need a horn section: Wilder, Runion, and Vickrey (this time on baritone sax). Swenson takes another blistering guitar turn while Booth and Diehl channel that second-line rhythm.

Badass bass launches “Rubberman,” the oldest tune in Acme Jazz Garage’s repertoire. Vickrey plays gorgeous flute here with Runion on tenor. Lewis stands out on Hammond B3 organ, funk dripping from every note. Diehl nails this one, and Swenson delivers a beautiful solo invoking so many great jazz guitarists. Booth gets an extended feature as well.

“Acmefied” opens with a nifty drum roll into the tune, another fine funky jazz piece. Swenson again channels the masters beautifully, and Diehl’s work on the kit is of special note. Lewis comps underneath with great electric piano.

Lewis arranged a very bluesy version of “America the Beautiful” which was released in time for Independence Day. His gospel-tinged Hammond B3 provides a very different reading of this, reminiscent perhaps of Ray Charles.

The disc closes with a percussion workout with Diehl and Ortiz, “Mongo Jam,” a logical extension of the opening tune.

This wonderful recording was enhanced by the remarkable production job done at the Springs Theatre, where local Tampa musicians have been producing music of the highest quality.

–SCOTT HOPKINS, “Colors of Jazz” announcer, WMNF, 88.5 FM; TieYourShoesReviews.com; editor-in-chief, musicfestnews.com

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“The influences felt scattered (which is good), but the song ‘Resonance’ immediately made me think of Steely Dan. That, too, is a good thing. Oh, and (I hear) hints of the Crusaders now and again. The rest felt like its own thing. This is really a hot little combo. Mission accomplished. It’s a damn fine record. Bravo!”

LOUIS MAISTROS, New Orleans singer/songwriter and writer, author of acclaimed novel “The Sound of Building Coffins,” and former jazz record store owner

Tampa Jazz Notes: Ybor Jazz Fest Concludes; Nate Najar CD Release Show at Studio@620; Helios Jazz Orchestra at Nova 535; Corey Christiansen at HCC Ybor; Christian McBride Returns in April; Jazz Calendar

(Photos courtesy of Alex Spassoff)

The third annual Ybor Jazz Festival on Sunday concluded five days and nine concerts’ worth of performances by locally based artists with a standing ovation for Rayzilla’s Dreamboats, reports fest director Keith Arsenault. The group, with Ray Villadonga on bass and guitar (left), saxophonist Jeremy Powell, guitarist Alfredo Rivero and drummer/percussionist Joe Bencomo, played following Jazztek (pianist Ben Winkler, bassist Jon Shea, and drummer Tim Diehl, below).

The festival, held at two stages at the HCC/Ybor Performing Arts Building, again “showcased the very best of the resident jazz community of Central Florida which is a truly gifted and talented group of dedicated musicians with national and international credits who have chosen to live and work here and grace our community,” Arsenault said. “Cooperation and collaboration between artists was inspiring to watch and listen to and audiences were enthusiastic and pleased with the wide variety of jazz styles that were presented.”

Arsenault promises something “bigger” for next year’s fest. Stay tuned.

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Nate Najar (right) and ex-Ellington bassist John Lamb play a CD release show Thursday night, featuring music from their new duets disc, “What’s New.” Copies of the CD will be available at the show, 7:30 at The Studio @620, 620 1st Avenue South in St. Petersburg. Admission is $20. For more info, call the venue at 727 895-6620 and/or visit Najar’s site.

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The Helios Jazz Orchestra, one of the favorites at the Ybor Jazz Fest, will be joined by singer Amy Morgan (left) on music drawn from the Great American Songbook, Nov. 20 at Nova 535.

The show — another in the orchestra’s monthly third-Thursday events — will feature dancing, catered treats, cabaret seating, and a full bar. The venue is at 535 Dr. M.L. King Jr. Street North (Ninth St. North) in St. Petersburg; valet parking is available. For more information, visit the Helios site or the Nova 535 site.

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Corey Christiansen (right), a guitarist who logged time on  Tampa Bay area stages when he was in the graduate jazz program at USF, plays the Mainstage Theatre at HCC/Ybor’s Performing Arts Building on Dec. 2. at 3 p.m. Christiansen is a well-traveled guitarist with good recordings to his credit, and teaching gigs at Utah State University and Indiana University on his resume. Tickets are $20 advance, $25 day of show for the concert, sponsored by the Tampa Jazz Club. More info to come.

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Tampa Bay area jazz fans who missed the Christian McBride Trio at the Mahaffey last Friday (my review) get another chance to hear the bassist. The much-recorded jazzer is returning to the area for Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour, April 13 at the Straz Center’s Ferguson Hall. McBride is musical director for the band, which also includes veteran jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, rising-star trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and three other top-shelf players — tenor and soprano saxophonist Chris Potter, pianist Benny Green and drummer Lewis Nash. The show starts at 7:30, and tickets start at $36.50. For more information, click here. (Photo by Bridge Burke)

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Other upcoming jazz shows:

Nov. 26 – Monday Night Jazz: USF Jazz Ensemble 1 with Rex Richardson, trumpet, USF MUS concert hall, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 11 – Flavor of Jazz 11, Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, 8 p.m.

Dec. 15 – Nate Najar Holiday show, with bassist John Lamb, drummer Steve Bucholtz, and guests Ken Peplowski, clarinet, Chuck Redd, vibes, Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 p.m.

Feb. 10 — Ira Sullivan, HCC Ybor, 3 p.m.

Feb. 17 — Preservation Hall Jazz Band & Del McCoury Band, Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 7 p.m.

March 24 — Chick Corea and Bela Fleck, Ruth Eckerd Hall, 8 p.m.

April 3 — Diana Krall, Ruth Eckerd Hall, 8 p.m.

Tampa Jazz Notes: The March of Jazz

Dick Hyman and other pianists, alone and with trios, rising-star jazz singer Sophie Milman, a duo featuring guitarist LaRue Nickelson and saxophonist Jeremy Powell, saxophonist Jack Wilkins’ new project, and a show saluting women in jazz are all on the jam-packed jazz calendar in March.

A quick look:

Tonight, March 12 – Pianist Kym Purling (left) is joined by two players whose names have been popping up a lot lately, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Stephen Bucholtz, for a program titled “Music From the Movies,” saluting the Oscars. Side Door Jazz at the Palladium in St. Petersburg, 8 p.m.

Sunday, March 14 – Saxophonist Jeremy Powell and guitarist LaRue Nickelson play a duo show in support of their impressive new CD, Amizade (right, below), a collection of striking original compositions, including some influenced by Brazilian music. Musicology, Clearwater, 4 p.m.

Thursday, March 18 – Sophie Milman, a fast-rising Toronto singer who was born in Russia and largely raised in Israel, brings her touring band to town for standards and pop covers — from Cole Porter to Springsteen — heard on her third CD, last year’s engaging Take Love Easy. That CD debuted at No. 6 on Billboard‘s jazz chart. Palladium, 8 p.m. (See the St. Petersburg Times Weekend section on Thursday for my interview with Milman)


Friday, March 19 – The Valerie Gillespie Ensemble, led by the saxophonist (left) and USF jazz studies adjunct professor, presents a program titled “It’s About the Melody”! at the Bayview Room at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, at 7 p.m.

Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20 – Trio Vibe, my group with vibraphonist Sam Koppelman, returns to Della’s. For this show, we’ll be joined by drummer Jose Munoz. We play from 7 to 10 p.m. each night.

Saturday, March 20 – Nationally known artists “Sweet” Sue Terry, alto sax, and Peggy Stern, piano, headline Women of Jazz III, with Rose Bilal and Theo Valentine, vocals; Patty Sanphy, guitar; Sandi Grecco, drums; Anne Van Atta, bass; and Arbra Tawwab, mistress of ceremonies. The show, presented by the Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association and the Jazztorian organization, is a scholarship benefit. Palladium, 7:30 p.m.

(The show’s musicians and other female jazzers will be saluted by Tampa singer Denise Moore on this Saturday’s edition of the Charles Vann Memorial Jazz Party, from 6 to 9 p.m. on WMNF, 88.5 FM)

Sunday, March 21 – Renowned pianist and composer Dick Hyman, a Venice (Florida) resident probably most widely known for his contributions to Woody Allen soundtracks, goes solo for “A Century of Jazz Piano,” a Tampa Jazz Club show. HCC Performing Arts Theater, Ybor City (Tampa), 3 p.m.

Sunday, March 21 – Larry Camp (right, below), by now the dean of the area’s front-rank jazz guitarists, is joined by a first-rate rhythm section — bassist Mark Neuenschwander and drummer Walt Hubbard. Marriott Hotel, Roosevelt and 28th St. N., St. Petersburg, 3 p.m.

Sunday, March 21 – Drummer Ron Gregg‘s trio with saxophonist Jim Holibaugh and keyboardist Kevin Wilder is joined by guitarist Vince Sims. Royal Theater, St. Petersburg, 4 p.m.

Sunday, March 21 – A group led by pianist Stan Hunter (left) is joined by singer Sasha Tuck. La Grande Hall @ Yamaha Piano, Clearwater, 3 p.m.

Monday, March 29 – Saxophonist Jack Wilkins, director of jazz studies at USF, premieres the music from his forthcoming Blue Ridge Mountains-themed CD. For the Monday Night Jazz Series concert on the USF campus in Tampa, he’ll be joined by guitarist (and former USF jazz studies grad student) Corey Christiansen, now a nationally known artist and Utah State University music prof; drummer and UNF prof Danny Gottlieb, formerly a USF artist in residence and part of the old Pat Metheny Group; renowned vibraphonist Jon Metzger; and the USF Jazz Faculty Ensemble. 8 p.m. at Theatre 2. (Wilkins and Christiansen appear together, doing “Tenor Madness,” in the below video).

For more information about the above mentioned concert venues, including addresses, phone numbers, and links to their web sites, please visit my Tampa Bay Area Music Calendar.

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.

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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

Listening Post, Week of 1/26: Pat Metheny, Buddy Miller, LaRue Nickelson/Jeremy Powell, Omar Sosa & NDR Big Band, Wilco

Five releases in rotation at home and in the car – a list without comment (in alphabetical order):

Pat Metheny, Orchestrion (Nonesuch, Jan. 26)

Buddy Miller, Midnight and Lonesome (Hightone, 2002)

LaRue Nickelson/Jeremy Powell, Amizade (indie release; Jan. 15; available here)*

Omar Sosa and the NDR Big Band, Ceremony (forthcoming)

Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch, 2002)

* Check out Cornelius White’s blog feature on Jeremy

St. Petersburg College Jazz Fest Brings John Lindberg, Jonathan and Jeremy Powell & More

Noted avant-leaning bassist John Lindberg (Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy); Latin-jazz group Guisando Caliente with pianist Kenny Drew, Jr.; a quintet led by trumpeter Jonathan Powell and saxophonist Jeremy Powell; and the Helios Jazz Orchestra with singers Dale Williams & Sasha Tuck are all slated to play the St. Petersburg College Jazz Festival.

The second annual fest, featuring a mix of nationally known artists and first-rate local musicians, will be held Feb. 4-6 at the SPC Music Center. Concerts start at 7:30 p.m.

For all the details, check out the festival poster, below.