These days, there’s no shortage of worthwhile jazz (and beyond) concerts, by national and local artists alike, at Tampa Bay area venues. Too much music, not enough time, or, in the case of the too often overpriced arena and theater events, not enough expendable dough.
At any rate … happy to report that I’ve been able to catch several good shows in the last few weeks (see below), and there are plenty ahead.
Fusion-guitar heads will explode about this just-announced show: John McLaughlin and Jimmy Herring, with their respective bands, are playing a double bill Nov. 25 at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
And, speaking of notable guitarists, the Tampa Bay area’s own Nate Najar is celebrating the release of his new album, “This is Nate Najar,” on the Candid label, with a show Thursday night in St. Petersburg (details below). Check out Sharon Kennedy’s feature, in the Tampa Bay Times. Najar tours nationally. His new CD is the eighth most added recording on this week’s JazzWeek radio-play chart.
On the way (a selective list):
Nate Najar with trumpeter James Suggs, bassist John Lamb and drummer Mark Feinman — Feb. 9, The Studio@620, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm
Whitney James’ Jazz Valentine, with guitarist LaRue Nickelson and La Lucha guys John O’ Leary on piano, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman — Feb. 10, Palladium Side Door, St. Petersburg, 8 pm
Al Di Meola “Elegant Gypsy 40th Anniversary” (Al’s band includes Tampa Bay area talent — percussionist Gumbi Ortiz, bassist Elias Tona and drummer Luis Alicea) — Feb. 13, Capitol Theatre, Clearwater, 7:30 pm
Richard Thompson & Blind Boys of Alabama — Feb. 14, Capitol Theater, 8 pm
St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Robotman (Feb. 22), Martin Bejerano Trio (Feb. 23), Joshua Breakstone (Feb. 24), Jason Lee Bruns (Feb. 26) — Palladium Side Door, 7:30 pm
St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: The Helios Jazz Orchestra with Whitney James & Fred Johnson — Feb. 25, Palladium Hough Hall, 7:30 pm
Frank Greene (trumpet) & Danny Gottlieb (drums) with USF Jazz Ensemble, directed by Chuck Owen — Feb. 27, USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm
Tony Bennett — March 2, Mahaffey Theater, 7:30 pm
Boogie Woogie Blues Piano Stomp: Bob Seeley, Dr. Billy C. Wirtz, Liz Pennock & Dr. Blues, Rob Rio — March 4, Palladium Hough Hall, 8 pm
Whitney James with guitarist LaRue Nickelson, organist/pianist Chris Rottmayer and drummer Dave Rudolph — March 5, HCC Ybor Performing Arts Center Mainstage Theatre, 3 pm
Norah Jones — March 7, Ruth Eckerd Hall, 8 pm
Taj Mahal (solo acoustic) — March 8, Capitol Theatre, 8 pm
Rickie Lee Jones & Madeleine Peyroux — March 11, Capitol Theatre, 8 pm
Gasparilla Music Festival: The New Mastersounds, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Shamarr Allen & the Underdawgs, Ryan Adams, Ghostface Killah, Have Gun, Will Travel, Curtis Hixon Park, Tampa, March 11-12
“The Sound: The Music of Stan Getz” (Jeff Rupert, Veronica Smith, others), Palladium Side Door, March 12, 6 pm
Tampa Bay Blues Fest (Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Coco Montoya, Stephen Stills, more), Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, April 7-9.
John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension & Jimmy Herring and the Invisible Whip — Nov. 25, Ruth Eckerd Hall, 8 pm.
I caught Dr. John, with my friend Roland Guerin on bass, at Clearwater’s beautifully renovated Capitol Theater on Jan. 17. The tickets were a Christmas present from me to my wife Callie — good seats and no reviewing duties. The band,with trumpeter Leon Brown, guitarist Eric Struthers and drummer Doug Belote, was in fine form. As usual, it was a treat hearing Dr. John sing and play some of the most memorable tunes from his repertoire, including “Iko Iko” and, of course, “Right Place, Wrong Time.”
But I’d be lying if I didn’t note that Mac seems to have lost some of his performance power. His vocals, and his piano playing, that unique mix of jazz, blues and New Orleans R&B descended from a long line of NOLA’s piano professors, including Professor Longhair, simply aren’t as robust as even a few years ago, when he played with his previous band at the Sunshine Music Festival. Some of that decline, of course, is understandable — he’s 76, and, as documented in his readable and entertaining autobiography “Under a Hoodoo Moon,” he lived a hard life in his hometown and in Los Angeles before moving to New York and adopting a more mellow lifestyle in later years.
Nevertheless, Dr. John remains a total original, and I was thrilled to hear him again. And I couldn’t help but wonder — who, aside from the likes of Jon Cleary and maybe Marcia Ball, will be exponents of that infectious, rolling rumba-boogie style of piano playing after Dr. John is gone? I’m sure there are others carrying on that tradition, particularly in New Orleans. Somebody hip me to ’em, please.
The day before (Jan. 14), we had a great experience at the fourth annual Sunshine Music Festival, formerly known as the Sunshine Blues Festival; it was my third time attending, having missed last year’s edition. The fest, held on waterside Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg, offered good-to-terrific sets by the blues-rocking Tedeschi Trucks Band (the “host” artists), soul/R&B legend Mavis Staples, jamgrass guys Railroad Earth, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers, Dave Mason and the North Mississippi Allstars. My review will appear in the March print edition of Relix magazine.
And just last Wednesday (Feb. 1), for the umpteenth time I had the pleasure of catching a Pat Metheny concert, this one at the Mahaffey Theater, almost exactly three years after his last performance at the same venue. For his latest tour, he’s joined by longtime musical associate Antonio Sanchez on drums, rising-star upright bassist Linda Oh, and a newcomer (to me), young Brit-born pianist Gwilym Simcock. The quartet touched on seemingly every phase of the guitarist’s long career; as usual, he made a joyful sound on his several guitars.
I ran into several area jazz folks at the show, including Bob Seymour and Mike Cornette, the former and current jazz directors at WUSF, and singer Whitney James, who happens to be a part-time announcer at the station (I also did some announcing there, briefly, in the late ’90s). I also connected with Jim Leonard, a Metheny aficionado/expert who deserves a shout-out for his invaluable help with song titles. My review of the show, for JazzTimes mag, is posted here.