Denise Moore: “A Jazz History,” tonight at the Palladium

Tampa singer Denise Moore brings her new jazz-history show to the Palladium tonight. I’ve known Denise since her days with Paul Wilborn & the Pop Tarts, and I’ve had the opportunity to sub in her bands on a few occasions. I’ve also connected with Denise and her husband Alex Spassoff in and around Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

I recently spoke with Denise for a feature published today in the St. Petersburg Times. Click here to see the story online in the Times. Or read the expanded version, below.

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Tampa singer Denise Moore grew up listening to jazz – Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Brazil’s Flora Purim and such jazz-influenced vocalists as Joni Mitchell.

But the Georgia native, who grew up in Melbourne, Florida, took her time stepping up to the mic in front of a jazz group. She sang with a band in the swing-folk-country mold of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks while she was a student at the University of Georgia in Athens. Later, she sang R&B, pop and blues with Tampa Bay area bands Paul Wilborn and the Pop Tarts, and the Women’s Blues Revue.

“I really didn’t get this going until I was 40,” Moore said. “A friend said, ‘You need to have your own group.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ But I did. And I went to what I love — jazz. I love this music. It feels good to me.”

Fifteen years later, she’s made up for lost time. Her band, Denise Moore & Then Some, has become a regular on the Tampa Bay area jazz scene, and she released a debut CD, Nothing Standard.

Fans of the singer can play a part in her new project: Moore’s next CD will feature music recorded live tonight at the Palladium Theater. The concert is part of the St. Petersburg venue’s Side Door Jazz series.

Moore, joined by pianist and arranger Billy Marcus, saxophonist David Pate, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Stephen Bucholtz, will play an ambitious program, “A Jazz History,” covering everything from early New Orleans jazz to smooth jazz.

The group will play about 20 tunes, including Fats Waller‘s “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” Wes Montgomery‘s “West Coast Blues,” Antonio Carlos Jobim‘s “No More Blues” and Anita O’ Day‘s version of “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.”

“We’ll start off with some ragtime and go all the way up to smooth jazz, and also do bebop, free jazz, swing, standards, and Brazilian music,” Moore said. “We’re doing the music in chronological order.”

Moore’s jazz history project, funded with a grant from the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, includes more than the concert and the recording, which are being engineered by WMNF, 88.5 FM station manager Jim Bennett. The singer is creating an educational web page, on her own web site, which will offer information on various jazz songs and styles, accompanied by audio clips taken from the concert. In addition, the concert will be aired on Bennett’s “In the Moment” show on jazz station KCSM-FM in San Mateo, California. She also plans to perform the program for audiences at public schools in Hillsborough County.

“We just want to give an overview of jazz for people that don’t know about all of it,” Moore said. “We’re saying, ‘Here’s a whole menu – you can select what you like, and you can decide if you want to taste that or maybe explore it more.”

When not working on her music, Moore stays busy as co-owner, with her husband Alex Spassoff, of the Suncoast Massage Therapy Center, a business that opened 20 years ago. She also teaches yoga, for the city of Tampa and privately.

“I did a workshop at the Homemade Music Symposium two years ago, on breath work for singers and horn players,” she said. “The idea is to help sustain the breath and calm the musician down. It’s a tool for stress relief and also expanding lung capacity. I feel like I’m a healing artist – with music, massage, and yoga.

Moore’s understanding of yoga and concepts related to relaxation and breath control directly feed into her approach to jazz singing, she said.

“You want to leave everything else behind and just become present. It is really one of the only times when you are present — you re totally in that moment and everything else is gone.”