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

 

 

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Tampa Jazz Notes: WUSF’s Bob Seymour Honors Kenny Drew Jr.; Memorial Service; Kenny Drew Scholarship at UCF

Bob Seymour, longtime jazz guru at WUSF, 89.7 FM and a tireless supporter of Tampa Bay area jazz musicians, will pay tribute to Kenny Drew Jr. on Seymour’s “Saturday Night Jazz” show..

kenny drewDrew’s recordings, including his recent work with bassist Joe Porter and John Jenkins, and several tracks to be aired for the first time, will be heard on Bob’s show, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Live streaming of WUSF-FM is available here.

According to pianist/composer Tom Becker, a memorial service for Kenny is slated for Aug. 23, at a place to be determined. He wrote: “John Jenkins is trying to find a place to have a tribute/celebration for Kenny with no live music; just Kenny’s music in the background and friends at large making some memorable comments about Kenny.”

Becker also announced, on his Facebook page, that Kenny’s handwritten manuscripts and his collection of other sheet music is headed to the music school at UCF, and that the university’s Jeff Rupert (saxophonist and jazz studies head) and Richard Drexler (pianist and bassist) are establishing a $10,000 music scholarship at UCF in Kenny’s name.

Ira Sullivan Headed to Ybor City

Ira Sullivan, the legendary jazzer who’s equally adept on trumpet and saxophone, comes to Ybor City on Sunday afternoon, for a show sponsored by the Tampa Jazz Club. I recently spoke with Sullivan, for the St. Petersburg Times. The feature will be in print tomorrow, but it’s already available online here.

Or read the full text of the piece, below:

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Ira Sullivan

Given the depth and breadth of Ira Sullivan’s work in jazz, and the sheer longevity of his career, the list of greats with whom the multi-instrumentalist has played could easily fill up a newspaper feature or two.

Suffice it to say that Sullivan, 78, was 12 when he led his first band, a trio with a drummer and an accordion player, and he’s worked with everyone from drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers to saxophonist and bebop forefather Charlie Parker to electric bass giant Jaco Pastorius.

Sullivan, a five-time Grammy nominee, has shared stages or recording studios with “every major jazz musician in the world,” he said recently from Miami, his home since the early ’60s.

The saxophonist and trumpeter, who comes to Ybor City this Sunday for his 14th or so concert in partnership with the Tampa Jazz Club, in recent years has played with celebrated young saxophonist Eric Alexander. And last year he was heard on pianist Bob Albanese’s “One Way/Detour,” a widely distributed CD on the Zoho label.

Sullivan appeared on several tracks, including the standard “Midnight Sun.” “All I did was play the melody, and that’s the one that disc jockeys freak out about. It proves that with all the convoluted solos you can come up with, there’s nothing like a simple melody.”

His melodies and solos — some straightforward, some marvellously complex — haven’t taken top billing on a recording since 2001. That’s when he last led a CD session, “After Hours,” a set of originals and standards on which he primarily played soprano sax.

So it’s been nearly a decade since Sullivan has released a CD under his own name.

Why the wait?

“I never was interested in recording,” he said. “I’m only interested in playing. The only time I record is when somebody nails me down. First off, I don’t like wear earphones — they take the feeling away from your palette and your jaw, the feeling of your instrument. To me the playing is where it’s at.”

Sullivan’s aptitude for playing in front of audiences practically came naturally. At age four, the Washington, D.C. native learned trumpet from his father, and as a teenager, growing up in Chicago, he took on tenor saxophone at the behest of his mother. And the budding musician could always count on receptive crowds for his early performances, including the families of his father’s 14 siblings.

While in his early ’20s in Chicago, Sullivan fronted a group backing the likes of saxophonists Stan Getz and Sonny Stitt, trumpeter Nat Adderley, and singer Johnny Hartman. And in 1955, he spent a week playing trumpet with Parker, a bebop idol to the younger man.

“He was drunk the first night and it took six of us to lift him into the cab,” Sullivan recounted. “After the second day, he said, ‘Ira, I can’t get drunk.’ That was because the doctors had shot him with B-12. I had a beautiful, alert wonderful Charlie Parker the rest of the week. He was healthy and bright eyed a d bushytailed. We had a wonderful week together. He treated me like the greatest trumpet player he had ever played with. A month later, he died.”

Sullivan regularly switches between tenor sax and trumpet on most gigs, and even did so during his celebrated ’80s touring and recording partnership with trumpeter Red Rodney. For this Sunday’s performance with pianist Michael Royal, bassist Richard Drexler and former Bill Evans Trio drummer Marty Morell, he’s likely to also pick up alto sax, soprano sax, flute, flugelhorn and various percussion instruments.

“I think differently for each one,” he says. “One has nothing to do with the other. I don’t approach any of them as if it were the same instrument. It’s like having five alter egos.”

Tampa Jazz Notes 1.21.09: Jon Metzger, Ira Sullivan, Jazz at Lenny’s, Gumbi Ortiz

metzgerThe Monday Night Jazz Series at USF (Tampa) kicks off this Monday, Jan. 26, with a performance by vibraphonist, composer and educator Jon Metzger. Also coming soon:

  • The Mindy Simmons Trio’s tribute to Peggy Lee, Friday at the Palladium (Side Door Jazz)
  • The USF Magic Marimba Festival/Conference, this Friday and Saturday on the Tampa campus
  • Big Sam’s Funky Nation, from NOLA, Friday at the Crowbar
  • Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Tuesday at the Van Wezel.

For more details on the above, check out my concert calendar.

The Wednesday night jazz jam session at Lenny’s Latin Cafe in Temple Terrace is alive and well, and continuing tonight. Drummer Don Capone and pianist Chuck Berlin preside. 7 to 10 p.m. Free admission.

Ira Sullivan turned in a typically artful, warmly engaging performance during his Tampa Jazz Club concert, Jan. 11 at the Springs Theater, a former movie theater converted into a recording studio/concert space.

The longtime South Florida jazz giant, 76, mixed and matched instruments — tenor and soprano saxophones, trumpet, cornet, flute — on two long sets, backed by a top-rank trio of Florida-based musicians: pianist Michael Royal, bassist Richard Drexler and drummer Danny Gottlieb.

The quartet turned in plenty of gems that could very well see the light of day, if a CD of the concert indeed is released, as Sullivan mentioned at several points during the show. Sullivan also made a point of instructing listeners in recording-session etiquette.

The first set included “The Way You Look Tonight,” Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes,” Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Mojave,” chestnut “Yesterday’s Gardenias,” Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father,” and Royal’s “Julie’s Lament.”

Set two: “The Toy Trumpet” (preceded by a piped-in tape of Shirley Temple singing that tune), “The Summer Knows,” Thelonious Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser,” “Some Other Time,” “The Song is You,” and Sullivan’s traditional closing piece, “Amazing Grace.”

Sullivan, talkative and friendly, had lots to say on varied subjects, including:

  • His Christian faith: “I don’t know why Jesus led me to play jazz, but he certainly did.”
  • The meaning of jazz: “Jazz is America and freedom. That’s what it stands for.”
  • Why jazz is seemingly cherished more abroad than in its home nation: “A prophet is not without honor, even in his own country” (a New Testament quote)
  • The future for jazz: “Lo and behold, the world is going back to bebop.”
  • Hearing Charlie Parker play one of Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts.
  • Playing with the likes of regulars Tony Castellano (piano) and Steve Bagby (drummer) and many others, including Jaco Pastorius and Michel Legrand, during 14 years of performances at a Unitarian Universalist Church.

It’s great to see that my old friend Gumbi Ortiz, a superb conga player based in St. Petersburg, is on the road again with RTF guitarist Al Di Meola’s World Sinfonia. The group, touring in support of the just-released live album La Melodia, Live in Milano, recently played a New York show that was given a glowing review in Relix. The tour, with the sextet emphasizing the music of tango master Astor Piazzolla, continues in the U.S. through February, and then continues in Europe and Israel. Sadly, no Florida dates are on the itinerary.

Jazz in January: Ira Sullivan, Kenny Drew, Jr., Richard Drexler

Top-shelf jazz shows are often in short supply in the Tampa Bay area.

So it’s reassuring to report that the new year is kicking off with three impressive jazz shows.

Kenny Drew, Jr., still viewed by many as one of the greatest jazz pianists of his generation, plays tonight at 8 at the Springs Theatre in Sulphur Springs (Tampa).

Kenny, who makes his home in St. Petersburg, frequently tours the world, playing jazz and classical concerts. In recent years, he’s worked with the Mingus Big Band and other high-profile groups. For this concert, he’ll be joined by bassist Joe Porter and drummer John Jenkins.

The show is sponsored by WMNF, 88.5 FM. Tickets are $10 advance, $15 at the door. For all the details, click here.

ira-sullivan1Next Sunday, Jan. 11, legendary saxophonist/trumpeter Ira Sullivan (above) returns to the Tampa Bay area for a 3 p.m. Tampa Jazz Club concert at the Springs Theatre.

Sullivan, a longtime South Florida musician, made his breakthrough on the Chicago scene in the ’50s, and he’s played with everyone from bebop trumpeter Red Rodney to drummer/bandleader Art Blakey to electric- bass great Jaco Pastorius (who played in Sullivan’s quartet).

For this performance, Sullivan will be joined by pianist Michael Royal, bassist Richard Drexler, and drummer Danny Gottlieb (formerly of the Pat Metheny Group). Admission is $23, $18 for jazz club members, and $5 for students.

The Springs Theatre, a former movie theater converted into a recording studio and performance space (my band, Trio Vibe, recently recorded our CD at the venue) is one block south of the Bird Street exit of northbound I-275. Parking is available at the adjacent Harbor Club. For more information on the theater, call (813) 915-0075 or visit the theatre’s web site.

Drew and Drexler, this time on piano, will play a “keyboard explosion,” with bassist John Lamb and drummer Don Capone, on Friday, Jan. 16 at the Mahaffey Theater’s Bayview Room in St. Petersburg.

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m.; Tickets are $20, and $15 for students. For more information, go to www.rickgeesjazzjamm.com