Vincent Herring, Hard Times (CD review)

Vincent Herring“Is this disc’s title an apropos description of the current era, with its semi-permanent malaise, and anger seemingly just below the surface of all public discourse? Maybe,” I wrote, in my review for JazzTimes.Vincent Herring’s response: Gather like-minded musicians and make a joyful noise with a set of muscular blues-tinted jazz.”

Read the complete review here.

Fun fact: Back in 2000, I played the Nat Adderley memorial concert at Florida Southern College’s Branscomb Auditorium, in Lakeland, my hometown. Nat lived there for many decades after relocating from New Jersey; at FSC, he was artist-in-residence, and, with FSC music prof Larry Burke, he launched the (now-defunct) Child of the Sun Jazz Festival.

How’d I wind up playing that show, alongside former Adderley musical associates and friends, including drummer Jimmy Cobb, pianists Larry Willis and Rob Bargad, saxophonists Vincent Herring and Antonio Hart, and trumpeter Longineau Parsons, among others?

Here’s how it happened: Burke had asked me to lend my upright bass to Walter Booker for the performance, which I was happy to do. I’d previously let another NYC bassist, Santi Debriano, borrow my bass when he played one of the editions of the Child of the Sun fest. About three hours before the show was slated to start, Burke called me, told me that Bookie was ailing (an asthma attack) and unable to play, and asked if I’d fill in.

I couldn’t ever have actually properly filled in for Booker, who died in 2006, but I had a (slightly nervous) blast playing the gig — won’t ever forget that performance.

I’d had a chance to get to know Nat a little bit some years early, when I interviewed him for an extended feature in one of the first issues of Jazziz magazine; I was a part of that mag from the start, beginning with exploratory meetings at the condo of Michael Fagien, who was then a med student (or a resident?) at UF. I recall discussing what the mag should be named — I wasn’t in favor of “Jazziz.” What did  I know? 🙂

And that’s … almost the rest of the story 🙂

BTW — had a chance on Saturday to talk with Debriano after one of his sets at Smalls in NYC. He was leading a great quartet with Craig Handy on tenor, Bill O’Connell on piano, and Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun.

Debriano said he hopes to soon record with that group.

Child of the Sun Music Festival: Skipping a Year; How Can Music Fests Survive?

What does it take for a jazz festival, or a more eclectic music festival, to survive, and thrive?

For starters, a strong vision (what’s this fest’s focus?), strong funding (civic, corporate, otherwise), a strong promotional effort (get the message out to the right people, by any means necessary) and a strong commitment to the fest’s immediate viability and long-term survival.

The Child of the Sun Jazz Festival in Lakeland once boasted some of that. Remember the days when the late Nat Adderley (below), legendary trumpeter and longtime artist in residence at Florida Southern College, brought all of his top-shelf NYC bandmates, and some of their associates, to play the fest at FSC?

Nat adderley

Thankfully, I had several opportunities to play my hometown’s fest, with some bands under my name, as well as my Acme Jazz Garage and Trio Vibe groups, and the FSC faculty jazz group (I wasn’t a faculty member but they invited me anyway).

FSC music prof Larry Burke did a great job organizing the fest, and making it a first class event. It was a feather in the cap for the college, a free admission fest offering folks the chance to see world-class jazz artists as well as good local players. The Child of the Sun Fest was unique for the area, as there was (and still is) nothing else like it in Lakeland or Polk County.

Jazz fans all over the region, and some from around the state, showed up to take in the music, which was played on an elevated stage in a beautiful setting on a lawn in front of the library on the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed campus. Sunny days turned into cool nights, and attendees often brought along their own picnics.

The crowds would have been larger, I think, had the college offered more appreciation and more support for a great event, right in front of FSC’s eyes. Maybe the powers-that-be didn’t get it? The promotional effort was less than robust, to say the least. I can’t tell you how many times Bob Seymour, the jazz director at WUSF (who sometimes attended the fest and talked about it on air) asked me why he hadn’t heard anything yet about any given year’s event — the lineup or even the date.

Sadly, after Nat passed away, FSC’s support for the fest began to dwindle.

If I recall correctly, the fest didn’t happen for a couple of years. But then it was revived in 2011, under the auspices of the Lakeland Rotary Club. The organization did a nice job with the fest at the start, but then began tinkering with the programming, foregoing national artists, taking “jazz” out of the title and making it the Child of the Sun Music Festival and 5K Run.

This year, the fest was scheduled to take place on April 2, and you can still find it listed online.

But earlier this week, organizers announced that the fest is going on hiatus, taking “a pause” for a year because the sponsoring organization wants to put its efforts into a “bigger” fundraising opportunity, a concert at Joker Marchant Stadium with Three Dog Night and America, or what’s left of those bands. Does it need to be said that rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia bands are a dime a dozen, and you can see those types of shows anywhere, anytime? Does it need to be added that, if big money comes in from the oldies concert, there’s not a whole lot of incentive to bring back the smaller event?

Fest organizers have announced that they’re just taking a year off. But anyone who knows anything about festivals (music or otherwise) knows that dropping the ball for a year absolutely destroys the forward momentum of a fest. You can’t do it halfway.

So … maybe it’s not fair to blame the sponsoring group. They have their own goals, and if reaching those goals requires another type of an event, more of a sure-fire money making opportunity, then, you know, more power to them. The Lakeland Rotary Club, and Rotary clubs throughout Lakeland, and elsewhere, typically support plenty of worthwhile, civic-minded causes.

Music festival management isn’t for everyone. Tough job. But if Rotary is serious about putting on a good music festival then, you know, make a real commitment to it.

Bring in some musicians and/or other music folks to advise on the programming, secure some sponsorship dollars from the City of Lakeland and/or major companies or wealthy individuals based in the area, and promote the heck out of the thing. If you build it properly, they will come.

(I have loads of experience attending and covering music festivals around the world, and working in communications, so I’d happily provide input and advice, whether it comes to the programming or the PR/media side).

If not, then … there’s an opening for other organizations or individuals to make it happen. Any takers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Straight Ahead: 16th Annual JJA Awards; UF jazz prof/trumpeter Gary Langford honored; Herb Snitzer a photography nominee

Jazz musicians and the music’s movers and shakers will be honored in 40 categories at the 16th annual Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) Jazz Awards, slated for June 20 at the Blue Note in NYC.

Pianists Horace Silver (left) and Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Ron Carter and saxophonist Wayne Shorter are up for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz awards.

Saxophonists Sonny Rollins, Lee Konitz, Phil Woods and Joe Lovano, pianist Keith Jarrett, guitarists John Scofield, Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell,  drummer Paul Motian, vibraphonist Gary Burton, and singers Kurt Elling, Freddy Cole, Tierney Sutton and Karrin Allyson are among the other veteran musicians nominated for awards, as well as rising-star talents including bassist Esperanza Spalding,  trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, pianists Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn, tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen, guitarist Mary Halvorson, vibist Warren Wolf and drummer Eric Harland.

(A Tampa Bay area note: The gifted St. Petersburg-based photographer Herb Snitzer, whose work was featured at the Tampa Museum of Art in recent months, is up for the Lona Foote-Bob Parent Award for Photography)

Organ Monk, a quartet led by Greg Lewis, will play the event, along with two duos: singer Paulette McWilliams and pianist Nat Adderley, Jr., and guitarist Gabriel Marin and bassist John Ferrara.

The ceremonies will also honor esteemed jazz writer Albert Murray with the “Music and Words” award, co-sponsored by the JJA and the Jazz Foundation of America.

A number of Jazz Heroes–  “activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz” — will be honored at a series of affiliated JJA Jazz Awards satellite parties in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Schenectady, and Tucson, as well as locations in Ca nada and New Zealand.

Two of those parties will be held in Florida — June 20 at B-Sharp’s Jazz Club, and June 21 at Leonardo’s 706 in Gainesville. I’m happy to say that the jazz hero being honored in Gainesville is my former jazz band director at the University of Florida, the gifted trumpeter and very influential educator Gary Langford. The Marty Liquori Jazztet will play that event.

Here’s the official citation for the award, as written by JJA member Dustin Garlitz:

“R. Gary Langford is Professor of Music Emeritus at the University of Florida in Gainesville, who as UF’s Director of Jazz Studies from 1981-2006 regularly taught a popular jazz history course that introduced thousands of undergraduates to the music. A trumpeter who, during his graduate studies at North Texas State University was a soloist with the One O’Clock (Jazz) Lab Band, he’s also an accomplished arranger and composer.

Gary held offices in the International Association of Jazz Educators, Florida Unit (President from 1984-1986), and was honored by IAJE in 1982-1983 as its Outstanding Jazz Educator.  He has been the recipient of many other honors: Teacher of the Year from UF’s College of Fine Arts, a TIP award for excellence in teaching, twice a finalist for the prestigious UF Alumni Association Distinguished Professor Award, the Foundation For The Promotion of Music’s 1997 Musician of the Year and the 1998 College Music Educator of the Year for the state of Florida (conferred by the Florida Music Educators Association).  In 1999 he was awarded the prestigious “Distinguished Service to Music Medal” by Kappa Kappa Psi, the national band fraternity and he was named most co-UF Teacher of the Year for 2006-2007.

He has directed numerous county, district and all-state bands, including the Alachua County Youth Orchestra; he’s been music director and conductor for more than 25 years.  He’s a Gainesville Jazz Hero deserving wider recognition, and thanks to the JJA is getting some.”

More info on the Gainesville event is here.

The NYC Jazz Awards gala is a fundraiser for the 24-year-old JJA, which numbers jazz writers, broadcasters, photographers, new media producers and other supporters of jazz journalism among its membership (I’m a longstanding voting member).

For more info on the JJA, visit the organization’s site – Jazz House. Complete details on the JJA Jazz Awards 2012 is available here.

Early Christmas Present: New Orleans Jazz Fest Lineup Coming Tuesday

Christmas will come early for Jazz Fest fans — the full lineup  for next year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will be announced this Tuesday, Dec. 16, according to a report published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The roster for the 40th annual edition of the festival, April 24-26 and April 30-May 3, will be announced during a press conference scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. (Central).

The announcement of the full lineup typically comes in January or February. Why so early this year?

Blame it on the economy.

“With the general economic downturn likely to affect leisure travel and ticket sales, the early announcement also allows for extra time to market the festival,” according to Keith Spera’s story in the Times-Picayune.

Expectations are that the 40th anniversary lineup will be as impressive a lineup as ever. On the list of artists confirmed to play, or expected to do so:

4/24 – Wynton Marsalis, Jazz Tent; Ellis Marsalis; Amanda Shaw

Wynton Marsalis4/25 – Wynton Marsalis (pictured, right), Congo Square

4/26 – Paul Sanchez

Solomon Burke4/30 – Solomon Burke (pictured, below); George Wein 4oth anniversary band with Jimmy Cobb, Esperanza Spalding, and Anat Cohen; Anders Osborne

First weekend (unspecified date) – Don Vappie

5/1 – Esperanza Spalding; Washboard Chaz Blues Trio; Dr. John;

5/2 – O’Jays; New Orleans/Helsinki Connection

5/3 – Jimmy Cobb’s “So What” band (celebrating the classic Miles album) with Wallace Roney, Javon Jackson, Vincent Herring, Larry Willis and Buster Williams; Juke Joint duo (Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm); Radiators; Dash Rip Rock; John Boutte; Voice of the Wetlands

(Know of other confirmations or solid rumors? Updates? Corrections? Send ’em my way)

Here’s my pitch (hope) for the Jazz Stage: Why not tap Sonny Rollins, (IMO) the greatest living jazz giant?

Also promised for the 40th edition of the fest is “a new ticket package option.” Some fans have expressed hopes that that means something along the lines of a multi-day discount, or perhaps steep discounts for locals and/or kids. Others have suggested that the new “option” could mean another type of V.I.P. package.