Gasparilla Music Festival 2019: Gary Clark Jr., Infamous Stringdusters, Avett Brothers, Tribal Gold, the Pharcyde, Tank and the Bangas, more.

gasparilla 2019

Several impressive picks just announced for the eighth annual Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, including rising-star Austin blues man Gary Clark Jr., Americana exponents The Infamous Stringdusters and the Avett Brothers (love ’em but they seem to play our market every six months), country-rock act Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, New Orleans Suspects spinoff band Tribal Gold (the Suspects with Big Chief Juan Pardo & The Golden Comanches), the Pharcyde, and Tank and the Bangas.

Tampa’s long-running Grateful Dead tribute group Uncle John’s Band “will perform the Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks Vol. 1 live album, which was actually recorded at the since-demolished Curtis Hixon Hall way back in 1973,” Ray Roa writes in Creative Loafing/Tampa.

Also on the bill: Laurie Berkner, Jared & the Mill, Parrotfish, Sugar Rush, Mr. Tommy, and The Florida Gospel Music & Arts Fellowship Choir with Dr Kevin B. Parrott.

I’d love to see more jazz, blues, and jazz-funk artists — national and local — on the bill. Maybe those types of acts will be added later.

How about some of the following, all of whom know how to connect with younger audiences? Snarky Puppy, Vulfpeck, MMW, John Scofield, Terence Blanchard, Robert Glasper, Dirty Loops, Jacob Collier, Christian Scott, Marquis Hill, Kamasi Washington, Ambrose Akinmusire, Soulive, Dr. Lonnie Smith.

GMF takes place March 9-10 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa.

Montreal Jazz Fest: Scintillating if Sweaty — Herbie, Kamasi, Medeski, more.

montreal fest poster 2018

By now, you’ve probably heard about the heat wave that landed in Quebec, just in time for the 39th annual Montreal International Jazz Festival, which in some years has attracted an attendance estimated at two million. It was a scorcher of historic proportions, with temps rising into the high 90s during the day and not dropping below the mid-80s on some evenings.

The cool vibes of the fest, which ran for 10 days in mid-summer and featured performances by 3,000 musicians from 300 countries at 500 indoor and outdoor shows, nevertheless made a soothing balm for that extended bout of steam heat.

For  my fifth visit (if I’m counting correctly), I enjoyed what felt like a year’s worth of great shows in a short period — four days’ and nights’ worth of memorable concerts, from Friday, June 29  through Monday, July 2.

Montreal Fest overview

Montreal’s jazz fest, unlike some others, which, say, focus on smooth jazz or have turned into predictable affairs dominated by nostalgic hitmaking acts, successfully programs several varieties of jazz, and also incorporates other genres — notably blues, world music, Americana, and new and classic pop, rock, and hip-hop.

Most importantly, for jazz fans, the fest continues to bring in high-caliber artists playing acoustic/straightahead jazz, fusion, Latin jazz, avant/outside, and other varieties variously influenced by funk, soul, and rock.

The fest’s multiple series of “Invitation” shows, held in the cool, comfortable Gesu, an intimate theater beneath an historic stone church, are always a treat. I have fond memories of Cuban piano monster Gonzalo Rubalcaba‘s series at the fest, way back in 2002 (During Rubalcaba’s stint, I interviewed him for downbeat).

This year was no exception: John Medeski, the gifted pianist, organist and keyboardist in the long-running trio Medeski Martin and Wood, over three nights offered close-up views of his eclectic musical passions.

Medeski’s most accessible performance was with Mad Skillet, a group generally inspired by New Orleans rhythms and textures. The quartet included guitarist Will Bernard; NOLA tuba wizard and Dirty Dozen Brass Band co-founder Kirk Joseph, who spiced his tuba ministrations with special effects; and drummer Julian Addison. NOLA funk was the operating groove, and a color-shifting take on Sun Ra’s “Golden Lady” was one of several gems the band played on June 30.

Mad Skillet sounded more confident and more open to taking chances with their arrangements and their repertoire than when I heard them in January 2017 at the GroundUp Music Festival in Miami, with Terence Higgins on drums (I reviewed the fest for JazzTimes).

Medeski and Marc

For a June 29 trio set with guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer J.T. Lewis (above), Medeski held forth on B3 organ, and gave lots of space to Ribot’s bluesy, bent six-string excursions. The three mostly dug into into jazz-funk for the likes of Horace Silver’s “Strollin’ ” and an imaginative version of Steppenwolf’s “Sookie Sookie.”

Night 3 (July 1) was all about nearly nonstop electroacoustic improvisations, with Medeski joined by a pair of drummers — MMW bandmate Chris Wood, and Mark Guiliana — and the three collectively generating multicolor sounds and funk, rock, hip-hop, and EDM rhythms via a large arsenal of keyboards and percussion instruments. (The Medeski series was followed by two others — by Guiliana, overlapping with his show with Medeski, and Dr. Lonnie Smith).

There was much more to hear and see, of course, as hundreds of thousands of concertgoers flooded onto the streets around the Place des Arts performing arts complex. My review of the fest’s first few days for JazzTimes, which the mag combined with Sharonne Cohen‘s overview of the second half, is available here.

A quick look at some of the other jazz-oriented shows I caught in Montreal:

Herbie

  • Herbie Hancock, above, at the beautifully appointed Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier theater, led a quartet with guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist James Genus, and drummer Trevor Lawrence Jr. They offered 100 minutes of high-energy fusion and funk. Pulling out his keytar at one point, the jazz legend aired out some new tunes, along with the likes of “Come Running to Me,” “Cantaloupe Island,” “Actual Proof,” “Watermelon Man,” and the closing “Chameleon.” Six-string bass guitar virtuoso Thundercat applied his falsetto vocals and speedy solos to a blast of soulful next-gen fusion. Kamasi
  • Kamasi Washington, above, the widely celebrated L.A. tenor saxophonist and unofficial leader of a newfangled, school of soul-rooted, R&B-influenced jazz, was garbed in a yellow-and-purple robe for his ecstatically received, SRO set at the huge Mtelus nightclub. Joined by his father, Rickey Washington, on soprano sax, trombonist Ryan Porter, bassist Miles Mosley, singer Patrice Quinn, keyboardist Brandon Coleman, and drummers Robert Miller and Tony Austin, he turned in soaring, spiritually minded anthems, deep funk grooves, and occasional detours into hard bop, partly imbued with a cosmic black-power vibe. Those musical and visual references to John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Sun Ra? Yes, they were organic, but also intentional. The set, drawn from this year’s “Heaven and Earth” album, last year’s “Harmony of Difference” EP and 2015’s breakthrough “The Epic” album: “Street Fighter Mas,” “The Rhythm Changes,” Giant Feelings,” drums feature “Bobby and Tony’s Day Off,” “Space Travelers Lullaby,” and “Fists of Fury.”
  • Cory Henry, the former Snarky Puppy keyboardist, cranked up his synthesizer and amped up the jazz-funk at the MTelus on “Love Will Find a Way,” a raucous cover of “Proud Mary,” and “Send Me a Sign,” among other crowd favorites.
  • Jose James, opening for Henry, offered smartly arranged, perfectly calibrated versions of Bill Withers‘ old-school R&B classics: “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Grandma’s Hands,” “Who is He (and What is He to You),” “Use Me,” and “Lean on Me,” the last one complete with a call-and-response section with the crowd and a statement of faith: “This is my religion .. diversity and unity,” he said. Backed by a group including the top-shelf rhythm section of bassist Ben Williams and drummer Nate Smith, James also brought out “Kissing My Love,” “Just the Two of Us,” and “A Lovely Day.” Most or all of those tunes will be heard on James’ forthcoming Withers tribute album, “Lean on Me.”

(My review of Americana hero Ry Cooder‘s set will be published in a forthcoming issue of Relix magazine.)

JJA Awards for Journalism and Media Announced

A long list of talented jazz journalists picked up Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) Awards in ceremonies held today at the Blue Note in NYC.

I couldn’t get there, but, hey, I was there in spirit!

“Professional Journalist Members of the JJA made open nominations in a first selection round; those who received the most nominations advanced to the final ballot,” as outlined by the JJA (I’m a member).

Kudos to the following:

+ Lifetime achievement in jazz journalism: Ted Panken

+ Jazz periodical: DownBeat

+ Jazz blog: Ethan Iverson‘s “Do the Math”

+ Jazz book: “Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth,” by John Szwed

+ Robert Palmer-Helen Oakley Dance Award for Excellence in Writing in 2015: Nate Chinen

+ Willis Conover-Marian McPartland Award for Broadcasting in 2015: Linda Yohn, WEMU

+ Lona Foote-Bob Parent Award for Photography in 2015: Ken Franckling

+ Jazz Photo of the Year: Patrick Marek

+ Jazz Album Art of the Year: Mike Park, for Kamasi Washington, “The Epic”

For more details, visit the JJA online

Maria Schneider Grabs Lion’s Share of Top JJA Awards

41º VOLL-DAMM FESTIVAL INTERNACIONAL JAZZ BARCELONA

Big band leader Maria Schneider, fast-rising saxophonist Kamasi Washington and composer Henry Threadgill have picked up major honors in the 2016 JJA Jazz Awards for Musical Achievement.

Schneider won in the categories of musician, composer, and arranger, while her New York-based Maria Schneider Orchestra won album of the year for “The Thompson Fields,” and large ensemble of the year. L.A. tenor man Washington won for up and coming artist, and Chicago saxophonist/flutist Threadgill received the Lifetime Achievement in Jazz award, on the heels of winning a Pulitzer and being named a Doris Duke Performing Artist.

Also receiving JJA honors — to be awarded at artists’ respective performances around the United States this summer — are:

Midsize Ensemble — Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret

Trio or Duo — Vijay Iyer Trio

Trumpeter — Wadada Leo Smith

Trombonist — Wycliffe Gordon

Multi-reeds Player — Anat Cohen

Alto Saxophonist — Rudresh Mahanthappa

Tenor saxophonist — Charles Lloyd

Baritone saxophonist — Gary Smulyan

Soprano saxophonist — Jane Ira Bloom

Flutist — Nicole Mitchell

Clarinetist — Anat Cohen

Guitarist — Mary Halvorson

Pianist – Fred Hersch

Keyboardist — Craig Taborn

Bassist — Christian McBride

Violinist/Violist/Cellist – Regina Carter

Percussionist — Pedrito Martinez

Mallets instrumentalist — Joe Locke

Traps Drummer — Jack DeJohnette

Player of Instruments Rare in Jazz — Scott Robinson

Electronics Player — Jason Lindner

Male singer — Gregory Porter

Female singer — Cecile McLorin Salvant

The JJA also honors jazz journalists, of course. Winners of jazz awards for media will be announced in ceremonies at a public, ticketed gathering on June 15 at the Blue Note in New York City .

For more info on the JJA, visit http://news.jazzjournalists.org/ or contact president@jazzjournalists.org