All Hail the Jazz DJs, and Saluting WUSF and WMNF

It’s National Disc Jockey Day

So let’s give props to all the great, hard-working, well-informed radio DJs out there, and the significant role they play in getting good music to the public.

In particular, I want to say thanks to Bob Seymour, longtime jazz guru at WUSF, 89.7 FM in Tampa.

Bob Seymour

I remember first listening to Bob during my high-school days in nearby Lakeland. Bob and Vic Hall and the others provided a great on-air jazz education. Then, and now, Bob and Co. served as a sort of jazz clearinghouse of the airwaves, alerting everyone in the Tampa Bay area to all of the local worthwhile concerts.

Bob, too, always has made a point of supporting the scene with his presence at concerts by national artists as well as gigs featuring local musicians (including my own bands).

I felt privileged to take a turn at the WUSF mic in the late ’90s, when I did some jazz announcing for a few years. And I’ve had the chance to get to know Bob and his wife Marian via hanging out together at local jazz shows, festivals at home (Clearwater Jazz Holiday) and abroad (Montreal Jazz Fest), and at jazz conferences (the old IAJE gatherings).

So …

KUDOS to Bob and all the other current WUSF jazz DJs, including Mike Cornette, Whitney James, Mark Feinman, and Richard Jimenez.

KUDOS to Randy Wind and all the great on-air talent at WMNF, 88.5 FM, in Tampa, including Scott Hopkins, Thomas Dickens, Ray Villadonga, Cheryl Mogul, Cameron Dilley, Ronny Elliott, Rev Billy C. Wirtz, Jeff Stewart, Speedy Gonzalez, Lee Courtney, Cricket Larson, Ed Greene, and Peter Tush.

Greatly appreciate all the support the folks at WMNF and WUSF give to local music, too, as they’ve played recordings I’ve done with Acme Jazz Garage, Trio Vibe, Ghetto Love Sugar, The Irritable Tribe of Poets, Greenwich Blue, the “Monk in the Sun” CD, and other projects.

(And extra thanks to WMNF for asking my bands, including Acme Jazz Garage, Ghetto Love Sugar, and Trio Vibe, to perform at special station-sponsored events, including the Tropical Heatwave and concerts at Skipper’s Smokehouse and the New World Brewery).

I’ll also give a shout-out to some of the nationally syndicated shows that provide hours of listening pleasure, including Christian McBride‘s new “Jazz Night in America” on NPR and the shows hosted by Mark Ruffin, Eulis Cathey, Dermot Hussey, and Les Davis on Sirius XM’s “Real Jazz” channel.

As the National Day Calendar explains, “National Disc Jockey Day is celebrated in remembrance of the death of Albert James Freed.  Freed, also known as Moondog, was an influential disc jockey in the 1950s.  He is credited with introducing the term ‘ rock ‘n’ roll’ to the world. Within our research we were unable to find the creator of National Disc Jockey Day.” More information

Stay tuned … to your local jazz DJ. Let them know you care.

 

Support Your Local Jazz Station — Give to WUSF, 89.7 FM

Is jazz radio suffering the same fate as jazz recordings — i.e., a gradual drop-off of interest, a future that’s so dark you don’t need shades?

Hard to say, as I haven’t closely followed the jazz radio industry. Lots of jazz radio stations continue to report their playlists to the trade mag JazzWeek, though. And I’m thankful for that level of jazz-radio activity.

Bob SeymourLocally, though, the Tampa Bay area audience for jazz radio seems to be holding steady, and maybe expanding: In recent years, WUSF, 89.7 FM has increased its jazz programming to 60 hours a week, starting at 9 p.m. Monday through Friday nights, and 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday nights.

My old friend Bob Seymour and his team of knowledgeable DJs — including several who are also well-known jazz musicians — do a great job presented a diverse mix of jazz in the evenings and all night long. Terrestrial radio in Tampa would be a dead zone without WUSF jazz. (And, yes, during the day I often tune in to the Real Jazz channel on Sirius/XM).

Guess I’m a little biased in my strong support of WUSF, as I’m friendly with several of the DJs, and because I was a DJ there for several years, starting in about 1997. That was during the period when I was working as a full-time freelance writer (following my ’88 to ’96 stint as the Tampa Tribune’s pop music critic). That was when all the DJs were doing their thing live — I frequently was on the air from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., and sometimes I filled in for Bob’s regular shift, from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

But, speaking of WUSF jazz, how else are we going to hear the new jazz releases, introduced by folks who know and love the music, and how would we hear such nationally broadcast shows as bassist Christian McBride’s new “Jazz Night in America”? How would we hear about all the upcoming jazz concerts and club gigs?

All of this is leading up to … my request that you help keep great jazz radio alive in Tampa. The official spring pledge drive just finished up. But you can donate anytime by going here

Do it now, and tell ’em that I sent ‘ya!

(And let’s give props to the jazz DJs at WUSF — in addition to Bob, you’ll hear Mike Cornette, Whitney James, Mark Feinman, and Richard Jimenez)

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.

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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.”

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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.

 

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)

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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.”

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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.

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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.

Remembering Don Capone: Memories from Bandmates and Friends

Tampa jazz drummer Don Capone passed away on Feb. 12, and several people have responded to my earlier post with thoughts about our old musical compadre. I’ve also received shots of Don from Alex Spassoff and singer Denise Moore (with whom Don played), and I’m including those below, as well as two of Don’s instructional videos (several are available on YouTube).

T. and Ronda Paramoure: “Don was a wonderful person and musician. He was family. We loved him dearly. Each time we met it was like we had never parted. He loved to play while my wife Ronda Paramoure sang and played her flute.  We have great memories of music and believe it or not ministry with Don. He was passionate about his music and his love for the Lord.  He always talked to me about “the Big Guy” and how he new that he would go to heaven one day…. God Bless you Don… you will be well missed here.  Keep that rhythm strong as we know you can in heaven.  RIP”

David & Bill, All Pro Percussion: “We just learned yesterday of Don’s passing. Don was a great supporter of the local music scene. We always enjoyed his visits to the store and hearing about the latest projects he was working on. Through-out his battle with cancer Don never let up. He was very passionate about his music and gave it his all when ever he sat down behind a kit. Don you will be greatly missed by all of us!”

Jason Stander: “Don was a great friend and amazing drummer. His attack was ferocious and precise, and his heavy right leg earned him his nickname “The Foot”. I had a chance to learn the brush techniques of Charlie Perry from him, whom was one of his earliest mentors. Although we only knew each other for a little over a year, words cannot express the ways in which I’ll miss him.”

Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association: “The Al Downing Tampa Bay Jazz Association is especially grateful to Don for the opportunities he gave youngsters to play at his jams and on CDs he recorded.  He donated to us copies of these CDs to sell to help support our scholarship fund.  This was a gesture of his great interest in young musicians and encouraging them to be involved in jazz.  Thank you, Don.”

Bob Seymour, jazz director, WUSF, 89.7 FM: “A fast and loyal friend is right, and Don’s enthusiasm about playing and all the people he made music with — whether talented youngsters or the area’s more seasoned performers — was really something. Marian (Seymour) knew Don for some time before I did; he was the school cop at Gary Adult HS in Ybor City, and along with stories of the Secret Service and other high-profile security jobs, would talk about his background in music and how much  he’d like to get back  to playing.  I heard those stories about Don for a long time before he did in fact emerge onto the scene, always with that pure joy of making music.  We’ll miss him.”

Sam Koppelman, vibraphonist, Trio Vibe: “His enthusiasm for the music lives in all of us.”

Mark Feinman, drummer: “Don was a great drummer and man. I enjoyed getting to see him play and always talking with him at length about music. He generated an energy that always made his musical experience young and fresh. His contributions to our community are unforgettable. He will be greatly missed.”

If you’d like to express any thoughts or remembrances about Don, please send them my way. I’ll post them here, with the newest thoughts at the top of this post. Write to me at jphilipbooth@gmail.com