Tampa Jazz Calendar: Branford Marsalis, Chick Corea and other heavy hitters ahead

Tampa Bay area performing arts centers and other venues are putting the spotlight on a surprisingly high volume of top-shelf jazz artists this month. When it rains, it pours. On the way:

Thursday, Jan. 11 — Branford Marsalis Quartet, with the acclaimed New Orleans-born saxophonist leading a group including pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner (unless there are subs). Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, 7:30. Link

Saturday, Jan. 13 — Chick Corea Akoustic Band, with the brilliant, versatile pianist, who makes his home in Pinellas County, joined by bass great John Patitucci on bass and monster drummer Dave Weckl. Two shows — doors at (approximately) 5 & 8:30 pm. Link 

Saturday, Jan. 13 — Sunshine Music Festival, with another great lineup of blues, rock, funk and more, again headlined by the superb Tedeschi Trucks Band, and including longrunning jazz-jam-avant trio Medeski Martin and Wood (MMW), Phish bassist Mike Gordon’s band, and NOLA funksters Galactic. Also: Hot Tuna, Foundations of Funk (with keyboardist/organist John Medeski from MMW, guitarist Eric Krasno from Soulive, and bassist George Porter, Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste from the Meters), and the Suffers. Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, 1 pm. (Dang, WHY does this fest have to be the same day as Chick Corea?) Link 

Saturday, Jan. 13 (Do all of these shows HAVE to be on the same day?) — Fast-rising Canadian-born trumpeter Bria Skonberg. Central Park Performing Arts Center, Largo, 8 pm. Link

Also ahead in January and February:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 10 — The Ron Reinhardt Group with guitarist Adam Hawley and saxophonist Kyle Schroeder. Charlie’s Sushi & Japanese Restaurant, Clearwater, 8 pm. Info/Reservations: 727 515-4454.
  • Friday, Jan. 12 — Serotonic album release party, with (opener) Jon Ditty. Dunedin Brewery, 9 pm. Link
  • Friday, Jan. 19 — James Suggs Plays the Music of Lee Morgan, with the popular Tampa Bay area trumpeter joined by pianist Stretch Bruyn, bassist Brandon Robertson and drummer Paul Gavin for a program of soul jazz and more. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Jan. 21 — Arbor Records artists Nicki Parrott (bass/vocals), Rossano Sportiello (piano) and Ed Metz (drums). Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Jan. 28 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit: Dave Stryker Quintet. HCC Ybor Mainstage Theatre, Ybor City, 3 pm. Link
  • Monday, Jan. 29 — Tampa Jazz Guitar Summit: Peter Bernstein, with the USF Faculty Jazz Ensemble. USF Concert Hall, Tampa, 7:30 pm. Link 
  • Wednesday, Feb. 14 — Whitney James‘ Jazz Valentine. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 8 pm. Link
  • Wednesday, Feb. 21 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Tal Cohen (piano) Trio, with bassist Dion Kerr and drummer David Chiverton. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Thursday, Feb. 22 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Saxophonist) Jeff Rupert Quintet with Veronica Swift (vocals), pianist Richard Drexler, bassist Ben Kramer, and drummer Marty Morell. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Friday, Feb. 23 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: B3 Fury with the Shawn Brown Quintet, with guitarist Nate Najar, saxophonist Jeremy Carter, and drummer Anthony Breach. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Saturday, Feb. 24 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: Helios Jazz Orchestra with (vocalists) Whitney James & Chuck Wansley. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link
  • Sunday, Feb. 25 — St. Petersburg Jazz Festival: (Pianist) Gabriel Hernandez Trio, with bassist Mauricio Rodriguez and drummer Dimas Sanchez. Side Door at the Palladium, St. Petersburg, 7:30 pm. Link

 

 

The 50 Greatest Live Acts? What? No Prince?

Who doesn’t love a music list? After all, they make great clickbait, right?

Hype Music Festivals (who?) has just published its list of “the greatest 50 live acts right now.”

Conspicuously missing: The mighty, multitalented Prince, one of the greatest live acts of all time (not just right now; his show 20 years ago at the Sunrise Musical Theater was one for the ages); Bootsy Collins and other super-funky acts; Medeski Martin and Wood; any number of great New Orleans artists; and the fast-rising trio Dirty Loops.

Still, lots of great, groove-alicious high-performing acts on the list, including Galactic (from New Orleans), lately taking things to a fever pitch with new singer Maggie Koerner; the amazing, oversized Tedeschi Trucks Band, co-led by miracle-working slide guitarist Derek Trucks and his blues-belting wife and guitar slinger Susan Tedeschi (the band was hot, again, at the Sunshine Blues Festival); the astonishing collective Snarky Puppy; Blues Traveler; Further; Lettuce; the Punch Brothers (sublime at Springfest); My Morning Jacket; Umphrey’s McGee; String Cheese Incident; and Radiohead (naturally).

And, in the No. 1 spot … The Allman Brothers, probably extra smoking-hot these days because the clock is running out on the band.

Here’s the list.

As mentioned, the high energy pop-fusion-funk group Dirty Loops is one of the bands that should have made the cut:

Want to see The Dirty Loops live? The band’s new 20-city tour kicks off Oct. 21 at Irving Plaza in NYC. Details are here.

Clearwater Mayor on Jazz Holiday: “You get what you pay for”

As fellow musicians, other friends, and readers know by now, I have a complicated relationship with the Clearwater Jazz Holiday.

I’ve covered the festival for many years, for both daily newspapers in the Tampa Bay area, and also for national music magazines. During the period when jazz advocate (and humanities prof) Frank Spena programmed the fest, and for several years later, the Jazz Holiday was home to the creme de la creme of jazz talent — established artists as well as a long list of rising stars who now figure prominently in various critics and readers polls conducted by DownBeat, JazzTimes, and the Jazz Journalists Association.

Let’s not forget: The festival, launched in 1980, played host to such greats as Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie (left), Herbie Mann, and Dave Brubeck during its first five years. Then came Count Basie (85), Stan Getz (86), Tito Puente and Phil Woods (87), McCoy Tyner (88), and Sonny Rollins (89). Ask anyone who cares about jazz: All of these musicians fall into the category of “major” jazz artists, who have played a significant role in jazz history.

Since then, there have been some great performances by some very good musicians. But only a handful of major, poll-winning jazz artists have played.

By way of newspaper columns and reviews, and blog posts, I’ve consistently pushed the fest to focus on high-quality jazz, of the straight-ahead variety. I’ve begged the fest to ditch the bland, generic (and sometimes pricey) “smooth” jazz acts who apparently are so beloved by the most influential members of the festival’s music committee.

Truth be told, I’ve also urged organizers  to bring in the kind of jazz that artfully incorporates other elements, including funk, rock, jamband, and experimental edges; that kind of music could serve to bring in a more youthful group of music aficionados. My old jam-oriented band, Ghetto Love Sugar, even played the fest in 2002 (kudos to the Jazz Holiday for continuing to include performances by strong local talent). And I’d like to think that my encouragement to bill artists in that vein played at least some role in the decision to book John Scofield (2001) and Medeski Martin and Wood (2007). Two impressive artists in a somewhat similar vein, New Orleans brass man Trombone Shorty (below) and one-time James Brown saxophonist Maceo Parker, are on this year’s bill — good stuff.

I’m rewinding all this history as a reminder: I have nothing but good wishes for the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, and many fond memories of great shows at the fest. I want to see the festival fulfill its mission, and again become a gem on the Tampa Bay area’s arts calendar.

That’s why I’m surprised by those fest organizers, public officials, and even some in the media who take offense at even mild criticism of the lineup; some observers, who may or may not know the difference between Lady Day and Lady Gaga, have derided as “purists” those jazz fans who hope to see the Jazz Holiday upgrade its programming.

Take, for example, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard. In a recent post post on the Holiday, I praised the inclusion of such artists as omnipresent bassist Christian McBride (below), veteran singer Dianne Reeves, and rising-star pianist Gerald Clayton, while also noting the utter absence of major, legendary jazz artists in headlining positions.

In response, in a comment on the post, Hibbard had this to say, in part: “We all know the sad state the Clearwater Jazz Holiday is in, and year after year many of us jazz fans are disappointed with their Jazz-less lineups. But again its FREE !”

So, then, because it’s free, jazz fans should lower their expectations regarding the quality of the music presented?

And what, exactly, does he mean regarding the fest’s “sad state”? Is it on shaky financial footing (I presume so)? If so, just what is the state of the fest? Why not reveal the details, so that supporters can have a greater opportunity to perhaps spread the word and help get the fest in better shape, financially?

Another commenter on this blog, Carl Harness, wrote something that, I think, gets at the heart of the Jazz Holiday’s issues:

“One of the problems that the CJH group has is that everyone you talk with gives you a different answer to the question, what is your mission? There is no consistency in their message. The Board members seem to have different ideas of what the mission is or should be. Some speak of the event being a “major national jazz festival” others talk about tuning it down to something that appeals more to a local audience. It is obvious from the lineups that we have had the past couple of years we are not competitive on the national front. All you have to do is compare our lineups with that of Jacksonville and/or Seabreeze in Panama City Beach.”

I’ve heard this kind of commentary from other sources, and it makes sense. If Jazz Holiday organizers and the City of Clearwater do want to again see the Jazz Holiday become a major jazz festival, the kind that draws jazz fans from all over the Southeast (and beyond), then why not go all-out in that direction?

As I’ve pointed out in the past, the money isn’t really the obstacle. Such smooth-jazz acts as The Rippingtons and Boney James, with their considerable production requirements, charge at least as much as anyone who fits in the category of legendary jazz artist. Alternatively, if the fest desires to become merely another nice event in the park, with a few jazzy artists, then why not revise the mission statement and change its name to something like Clearwater Music Festival? Not that there’s anything wrong that: There’s no law stating that Tampa or St. Petersburg can’t take over the task of putting on a major jazz festival.

Again, my hope is that the Jazz Holiday will pledge to take its mission seriously, and renew its efforts to present a program of world-class jazz. Other large metropolitan areas can do it, and have done it — and, yes, without charging admission. Why not us?

For the record, schedule permitting I hope to catch this year’s performances by Trombone Shorty, and former “Tonight Show” guitarist Kevin Eubanks (10/13), the Gerald Clayton Trio, and saxophonist Valerie Gillespie (10/14); and Dianne Reeves, and Christian McBride (10/16). I have my own gig on 10/15, but if I were to get to the park I’d make a point of seeing Maceo Parker, master Latin percussionist Sammy Figueroa, guitarist and USF teacher (and friend) LaRue Nickelson (left), and rising-star singer Whitney James (right).

Hibbard’s comments, and my response, are below. What do you think?

———-

Well there you go again Mr. Booth,

People like you never cease to amaze me, Always Complaining !

I guess you get what you pay for, and when last I checked the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, and your VIP ticket, is still FREE !

We all know the sad state the Clearwater Jazz Holiday is in, and year after year many of us jazz fans are disappointed with their Jazz-less lineups.

But again its FREE !

If you don’t like the artists selected, I suggest instead of constantly complaining about the lack of Sonny Rollins, you find other ways to contribute to improve the artists selection process, or better yet, Just Don’t Attend The Event !

FH

Frank Hibbard

August 31, 2011

———-

(my response:)

“There you go again, Mayor Hibbard (if that’s really you).

So you’re saying that because the festival is free — FREE! — then it should lower its standards when it comes to presenting quality jazz? Or that it shouldn’t adhere to its stated mission? Have you read the mission statement?

There are other cities, larger (Chicago) and smaller than Clearwater, that manage to put on free-admission jazz festivals featuring world-class talent. Again, FREE!

In regards to complaining “about the lack of Sonny Rollins”: Most readers are aware that I was just using Sonny as an example as the kind of artist – undeniably a legendary jazz artist – who ought to have a home on a festival that wants to offer world-class jazz.

As far as supporting the festival, I’m probably one of the most loyal longtime boosters of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, having written multiple cover stories on the fest (positive stories, promoting the event) for both daily newspapers in our area, and being the first person to provide coverage of the fest – again, positive – in major national music magazines.

Yes, I’ve been critical of the lineup in recent years, but you’ll have to believe me when I tell you that it’s tough love. On the fest’s best nights, when good jazz is on the bill and a cool breeze is blowing, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere except at Coachman Park during the Clearwater Jazz Holiday. If I didn’t care about the festival, and about jazz, why would I spend time writing about it?

Your best suggestion for those who disagree with the festival’s programming is to “Don’t Attend the Event!”? Really? Is that the advice you give to folks who disagree with you on City of Clearwater matters? “Just Move Out of Clearwater”? Pardon me for saying so, but that’s a very skewed approach to civic leadership.

Just so you know (since, apparently you don’t): The fest’s music committee for many years has closed itself off to outside influence – except for one year when they asked several knowledgeable jazz people to come in and have a discussion about the lineup. So the only way for us to contribute now is through public forums, like this blog.

As a self-declared jazz fan, what have YOU done to ensure that the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, the only major, large-scale jazz festival in our area, brings in world-class jazz and not merely a mixed bag of sort-of jazzy artists?”

Camp MMW

campmmw1_03Given enough funds, and unlimited vacation time from my day job, I’d head to the Catskill Mountains this August for the second annual Camp MMW.

It’s a chance for musicians to interact with each other and with the guys in Medeski Martin and Wood — keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood.

The camp, to be held Aug. 4-9 at Full Moon Resort near Kingston, N.Y., offers musicians of varying skill levels the opportunity to learn from MMW — in master classes and more intimate sessions — and to create new music for themselves.

In addition to the seminars/workshops/lessons are performances by MMW and their guests, and other special events.

The cost is $2,000, which includes food and lodging, and the application date is May 1. Only 80 musicians — 16 years old or older — will be accepted, and a “virtual” audition, via musical samples submitted in MP3, is required for admission.

For more information, check the site.

Those without the wherewithal to get to Camp MMW can always check out the band on tour, including a May 2 show in New Orleans, during the second weekend of Jazz Fest.

MMW Tour dates.